Australian-bred Power Alert and jockey Daniel Centeno are home free in Turf Dash Stakes (Courtesy John Duca/SV Photography)
When opportunity came knocking early today, leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno was quick to open the door.
After his original mount for the $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes, Bill’s Passion, was scratched and Albin Jimenez – named to ride race favorite Power Alert – moved his tack to Turfway Park in Kentucky, Centeno found himself aboard the 6-year-old Australian-bred gelding, who had finished second in last season’s Turf Dash.
Not to diminish Centeno’s efforts, but once the gates opened, he pretty much let the strapping gray do the heavy lifting.
“When I heard I got the mount, I said ‘Perfect,’ because you could see from the form he had been running in very tough races and done well,” Centeno said after Power Alert defeated a late-running Incensed by three-and-a-half lengths. Last year’s winner, Fast Flying Rumor, finished a determined third, a neck ahead of One Lucky Step in the 10-horse field.
The winner’s time of 55.25 seconds was .62 seconds off the stakes and turf-course record of 54.63 seconds set two seasons ago by Bold Thunder, who also was ridden by Centeno. The jockey has ridden six of the event’s 13 winners.
Power Alert, now 10-for-29 in his career, is owned by AJ Suited Racing Stable and Brian A. Lynch and trained by Lynch, who won the 2016 Grade III Florida Oaks here with Baciami Piccola.
“If we were going to end up with a substitute jockey, he ended up being the right one,” said Lynch via telephone from Gulfstream Park. “I got a little bit nervous because sometimes down close to the inside (Power Alert broke from the No. 4 post), he just doesn’t break well, for whatever reason.
“He didn’t break all that well today, but Danny was able to get him into the race, and once they ran the first quarter-mile, I could see he was just sitting on him. I felt pretty good from there on out,” Lynch said.
Centeno said he had few worries throughout the race.
“He did break a step slow, but after he took the lead it was pretty much all him,” Centeno said. Centeno was aware of long shot One Lucky Step ranging up on his outside on the turn, but the latter’s jockey, Edwin Gonzalez, couldn’t make a dent in the lead.
“When I saw him to my outside, I just smooched my lips and asked my horse a little bit and moved my reins, and he opened up,” Centeno said. “He switched leads a little late, but as soon as he did he took off.” One tap of the jockey’s stick was all the reminder Power Alert needed to finish the job.
Power Alert paid $3.60 to win. First-place money of $45,000 raised Power Alert’s career earnings to $546,156. The son of the Argentine sire Alert, out of the Australian mare Gold Locket, has now won five stakes since moving stateside a little more than two years ago, including the Grade III Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs in 2015.
“He’s very deserving (of the Turf Dash triumph),” said Lynch. “He’s run in some very good races and lost some head-bob finishes, and he’s run on some turf courses that probably wouldn’t be his desired surface and still run well, so it was nice to see a firm turf course today.
“I’m very happy for him. He’s a really honest horse.”
The jockey on 3-year-old gelding Incensed, Wilmer Garcia, said his horse was forced to check on the turn and thought he might have made a real race of it without that trouble. “It cost me a lot, but he came back again,” Garcia said.
Around the oval. The late Pick-5 wager went unclaimed for the second consecutive card, creating a carryover pool of $76,715.89 entering Sunday’s 10-race card. Thoroughbred action begins at 12:25 p.m. The jackpot Pick-5 will begin with the sixth race.
Fernando De La Cruz rode two winners today. He captured the fourth race on 7-year-old gelding Candy Waltz, owned by William Brauns and trained by Wayne D. Mogge. De La Cruz added the sixrh, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, on 8-year-old gelding El Grande Rojo for owners Laura and Neil Barrish and trainer Charles Harvatt.
All North American Thoroughbred race horses celebrate their “birthdays” on Jan. 1 for record-keeping purposes.
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.