by Mike Henry

Preparations are underway for the 25th annual “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament, Dinner and Charity Auction, to be held Monday, March 6. The event benefits the Race Track Chaplaincy of America—Tampa Bay Downs Division and those individuals at the track served by the RTCA.

On today’s program, leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno, who has already built a substantial lead in the meet standings in his quest for a sixth title, rode three winners, giving him 42 for the first 29 days. More on Centeno’s big day in the “Around the ovals” section.

The RTCA—TBD Division golf tournament, which is a four-person scramble, will be played at Cheval Golf and Athletic Club in nearby Lutz, with an 11 a.m. shotgun start. Dinner is at 5:30 p.m. on the first floor of the Tampa Bay Downs Grandstand, followed by the live and silent auctions.

As always, “Hearts Reaching Out” is held on the Monday of the track’s Festival Week, which culminates with a graded stakes-laden card highlighted by the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on Saturday, March 11.

Items to be bid during the auctions on include horse racing and sports memorabilia, signed photographs and paintings, tickets to sporting events and gift baskets. There will also be a raffle for a Corriente saddle donated by Wayne Baize, a popular Cowboy Artist. Raffle tickets are $10 and will be available at the Chaplain’s office on the Tampa Bay Downs backside in the days leading to the event.

Cost for the tournament, dinner and auction is $100, with a $20 cost to those attending only the dinner and auction. Groups or individuals can sponsor a hole with signage at the tournament for $125. Table sponsorships for the dinner and auctions are also available, and the chaplaincy is accepting donations.

This is always one of the most popular and well-attended gatherings of the meeting, filled with camaraderie, love and respect for each and every member of the racetrack community. For details, call the Chaplain’s office at (813) 854-1313 or RTCA—TBD President Sharyn Wasiluk at (813) 494-1870.

Around the ovals. After capturing a pair of Eclipse Awards on Saturday night at Gulfstream Park with his Champion Turf Female, Tepin, and Champion 2-Year-Old Male, Classic Empire, trainer Mark Casse returned this morning to the task of preparing the now-6-year-old Tepin to competition for a possible run at a third consecutive Eclipse.

Things went about as well as Casse could have hoped for. Working in company with her stablemate, Tamit, as reported on , she turned in a four-furlong move in 47 4/5 seconds under her jockey, Julien Leparoux, at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Casse said afterward Tepin is “60-40” to compete at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 11 in the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes, a mile-and-a-sixteenth turf race she won last year to kick off her 5-year-old season. Tepin also won the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs.

Casse said Tepin missed a couple of days of training last week after kicking a wall in her stall. The Robert Masterson-owned mare is 13-for-23 in her career with earnings of $4,437,918.

Also today, reported that trainer Ian Wilkes plans to start his unbeaten (3-for-3) sophomore colt McCraken in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 11. The Sam F. Davis is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, awarding qualifying points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands starting gate to the first four finishers.

McCraken, bred and owned by Whitham Thoroughbreds, won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs in his final 2-year-old start under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr.

Wilkes is no stranger to the Kentucky Derby trail. The native of New South Wales, Australia galloped 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled for trainer Carl Nafzger, and he was Nafzger’s main assistant when their Street Sense won the 2007 Run for the Roses.

Top jockey Centeno keeps getting on a lot of favorites because he knows how to win on them, as he displayed today for a trio of satisfied trainers. He won the second race aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred filly R Lucky Charm for owners Averill Racing, CCF Racing Stable, Silver Oak Stable, G. Kaufman, et al, and trainer Gerald Bennett.

Centeno returned to the winner’s circle after the fourth race on the turf on 3-year-old gelding El Mayito for owner Cristino Dominguez and trainer Margaret Wetherington. He added the seventh race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, with 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Phil’sfirstfactum, owned by Charles Tebbutt, Edwin J. Schatzel and Stephen M. Buonome and trained by John Tebbutt.

Ronnie Allen, Jr., second in the jockey standings with 28 victories, rode two winners. He captured the sixth race on the turf on Flower Punch, a 4-year-old gelding owned and trained by Maria Bowersock. Allen closed out the card in the ninth by winning on 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding Dancing King, owned by Dennis Allen Smith and Kathleen O’Connell and trained by O’Connell.

Allen has ridden 12 winners over the last five racing days.

Tampa Bay Downs holds its annual “Cap Giveaway Day” celebration on Saturday. The attractive sky-blue-and-white cap with the distinctive track logo will be given to all patrons with paid admission, while supplies last. Additionally, jockeys will be available through the course of the afternoon for autographs on the first floor of the Grandstand.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The track 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.