by Mike Henry

A pair of turf-loving speedballs foaled about 9,500 miles apart, Fast Flying Rumor and Power Alert, are set to resume their rivalry in Saturday’s $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes, which has attracted a full field of 12 horses. The 5-furlong grass event is the ninth race on a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m.

This will be the third meeting between the 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Fast Flying Rumor and the 6-year-old Australian-bred gelding Power Alert. When they first squared off, in last season’s Turf Dash, the Gerald Bennett-trained Fast Flying Rumor drew off to a four-and-three-quarter length victory from his older foe, in the process establishing a Tampa Bay Downs record for either surface with a 108 Beyer Speed Figure on the firm turf course.

They met again on July 9 in the 5-furlong Parx Dash outside Philadelphia on yielding turf, with the Brian Lynch trainee Power Alert finishing second, beaten two lengths by Pure Sensation, who went on to a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita. Fast Flying Rumor finished last in the eight-horse Parx Dash field.

Power Alert will break from the No. 4 post if all 12 start, while Fast Flying Rumor has the No. 6 post. Albin Jimenez is named to ride Power Alert and Ronnie Allen, Jr., has the assignment on Fast Flying Rumor.

Whether either recaptures the scintillating form they displayed last January will be witnessed Saturday, but they are far from the only logical contenders set to vie for the winner’s purse share.

A pair of quality ship-ins from south Florida are likely to draw considerable attention at the wagering windows. Summation Time, a 5-year-old Florida-bred horse trained by Christophe Clement, has not found the winner’s circle in his last 12 starts, but has been a solid contender against graded-stakes company. He will break from the No. 12 post under jockey Anthony Crastus.

The 4-year-old gelding Super Spender, trained by Jane Cibelli, will break from the No. 1 post under Nik Juarez. The duo teamed for an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Claiming Crown Canterbury Stakes at Gulfstream on Dec. 3 in Super Spender’s first stakes effort.

Others Turf Dash entrants with good recent form include the 1-2 finishers here in the Turf Dash Prep on Dec. 7, 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Bill’s Passion and 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding One Lucky Step. Gerald Bennett trains Bill’s Passion while his wife, Mary Bennett, trains One Lucky Step, whom she and her husband bred. Bill’s Passion drew the No. 9 post and will be ridden by Daniel Centeno, while One Lucky Step breaks from the No. 11 post under Edwin Gonzalez.

Also of particular intrigue is Morning Fire, the 3-year-old colt who won both the $100,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream earlier this year and finished third here in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes.

Trained by Keith Nations, Morning Fire will be making his turf debut under jockey Jose Ferrer. They drew the No. 5 post.

Around the oval. Jockey Edwin Gonzalez rode three winners on today’s card. He captured the third race on Roundupthelute, a 5-year-old gelding owned by South Fork Creek Stables and Midnight Rider and trained by Gerald Bennett. Gonzalez added the sixth on the turf on Blake’s Magic, a 6-year-old mare owned by Robert D. Bone and trained by Jamie Ness.

In the ninth race, a 6-furlong, allowance/$75,000 optional claiming sprint for 2-year-old fillies, Gonzalez scored on Florida-bred Star Gala for breeders-owners Helen and Joseph Barbazon and trainer Ian Hemingway.

Fernando De La Cruz and Ronnie Allen, Jr., each rode two winners today. De La Cruz won the fourth and fifth races. He guided Blutadda, a 5-year-old mare owned by Kenneth Kaelin and trained by Forrest Kaelin, to victory in the fourth. In the fifth, De La Cruz won aboard 4-year-old filly Lovethislife for owner Ramona Holt Thomson and trainer William R. Connelly.

Allen won the seventh on 7-year-old gelding Thunder Harbor and the 10th on the turf on 2-year-old gelding Speed Game.

Gerald Bennett sent out two winners. In addition to Roundupthelute, the leading Oldsmar conditioner won the seventh with the aforementioned Thunder Harbor, owned by Winning Stables and La Marca Stable. Speed Game is owned by his breeder, Charles Lo, and trained by Tom Proctor.

Saturday marks the debut of track announcer Richard Grunder’s popular “Morning Glory Club” show. Each Saturday through March 11, Grunder will interview jockeys, trainers, track officials and racing personalities beginning at 10 a.m. on the first floor of the Grandstand.

Saturday’s guest is Jane Cibelli, the trainer of Super Spender. Cibelli, who is based in south Florida, counts Chirac’s victory in the 2009 running of the Grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes among her 700-plus career victories.

Admission is free and fans get to enjoy complimentary coffee and donuts.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The Oldsmar oval will conduct its first Sunday card of the meeting on New Year’s Day.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.