by Mike Henry

Even before heading to Ocala on Tuesday for the $100,000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Championship Stakes (Fillies Division), trainer Mike Dini had stated his intention to point Dynatail to the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11.

If Dini or owner Alan Lustig (Ballybrit Stable) of nearby Seminole, Fla., were harboring any doubts about their level of ambition, they disappeared with the 3-year-old’s impressive front-running score in the mile-and-a-sixteenth event on the Ocala Training Center all-weather track.

“She sort of plays with the other horses,” Dini said after Dynatail posted a 1 ¾-length victory from On Her Honor in a time of 1:46 1/5. “(On Her Honor) got in front of her at the eighth pole and it looked like Dynatail might be tiring, but as soon as (jockey Orlando Bocachica) hit her, she took off.”

The victory was the third in a row for Dynatail, who broke her maiden on Dec. 3 and posted a five-and-three-quarter length victory on Jan. 1. Both of those races were on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.

Meanwhile, on today’s card, the Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-old colt Always Dreaming rolled to an 11 ½-length victory in the seventh race, a maiden special weight contest at a distance of a mile and 40 yards. Always Dreaming was ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. More on this strong performance shortly.

Back to Dini’s plans for Dynatail, who has done nothing wrong since arriving here last fall before the resumption of the 2016-2017 meeting. “We put blinkers on her (for the Dec. 3 race), and she’s gotten real good since then,” Dini said. “If you look at her numbers (speed figures), she’s good enough to take most of them on. I’ve been watching Gulfstream and there aren’t many (3-year-old fillies) who have run faster.”

Dini trains about 15 horses for Ballybrit Stable, including such accomplished individuals as New York-stakes winning 5-year-old horse Gallery; graded stakes-placed 4-year-old filly Quick Release; and multiple graded stakes-placed 3-year-old colt Bird’s Eye View.

Dini now plans to train Dynatail to the Florida Oaks, which is part of the track’s lucrative Festival Day card that includes the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on the main track for 3-year-olds and the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes on the turf for older fillies and mares.

Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Dynatail is by Hightail, whose only victory in 10 starts came in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, and out of Southern Dynamo (by Dynaformer), who finished out of the money in both of her career starts.

Dini purchased Dynatail on behalf of Lustig for $5,000 at last year’s OBS June Two-Year-Olds & Horses of Racing Age Sale. She has earned $89,740.

“She had run well on the (Tapeta) surface at Presque Isle Downs (finishing second on Sept. 8), so we thought she would be OK at Ocala, especially for that kind of money,” Dini said. The winner’s share of the OBS Championship Stakes was $60,140.

As for the ultra-impressive Always Dreaming, who posted a third at Belmont and a second at Saratoga last summer, Velazquez had little but praise for the son of Bodemeister-Above Perfection, by In Excess, even though he showed signs of immaturity.

After breaking well, Velazquez moved Always Dreaming between horses to engage the front-runners, 50-1 shot Blue Moon Diamond and Watch Your Words, entering the first turn. “I wanted to teach him something,” said Velazquez, who was riding the winner for the first time.

“I wanted to cover him up a little, but the outside horse (Blue Moon Diamond) wasn’t quite quick enough. My horse started climbing a little bit on the backstretch, and when somebody else started moving outside (Gonnawinalot), I didn’t want to just be behind two horses and maybe have to check, so I took my position at the half-mile pole and he was going very comfortably.”

Velazquez was momentarily concerned at the eighth pole when Always Dreaming caught sight of the starting gate in motion, headed in the opposite direction, but the rider quickly redirected his mount’s attention to the business at hand. “He started looking around again approaching the wire, so I gave him a little tap under the belly and he picked it up and went on very nicely.

“It’s hard to evaluate his performance coming off a (five-month) layoff, but he was impressive, that’s all you can say about him,” Velazquez added.

Always Dreaming paid $2.40 as the overwhelming wagering favorite in the nine-horse field, which included five first-time starters. The Pletcher-trained Watch Your Words finished second and Cannavaro was third.

Always Dreaming is owned by MeB Racing Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stables and Brooklyn Boyz.

Blair, Springer balance horses, parenthood. Trainer Jordan Blair and his wife, retired jockey Jordan Springer, operate a 12-horse racing stable on the Tampa Bay Downs backstretch. This is their fourth year of competition at the Oldsmar oval (they shipped horses in from Ocala two years ago before returning to the backside).

Their lives changed last March when Springer gave birth to their daughter, Hunter. Wanting to spend less time galloping horses, she took a course to become certified as an equine massage practitioner and has begun branching out to offer her expertise and services to other trainers.

For an in-depth look at the couple and their life on and away from the track, click on the following link:


Around the oval. Ronnie Allen, Jr., rode multiple winners for the sixth consecutive racing day, giving him 14 victories over that period. The four-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey won the first race aboard Pacific Image, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned and trained by Justin Johns. Allen added the sixth race on 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Adios Cat, owned by Ralph E. Whitney and trained by Maria Bowersock.

Jockeys Fernando De La Cruz and Pablo Morales each tallied two victories. De La Cruz captured the third race on 4-year-old gelding Slater River, a homebred racing for Fred and Neil McCrary and trained by Joseph D. Davis. De La Cruz added the fourth on Cold Dish, a 4-year-old filly owned by Cindy Patrick and trained by R.G. Patrick.

Morales won the eighth and 10th races on the turf course. In the eighth, he piloted No Boundaries, a 3-year-old gelding, for breeder-owner Team Block and trainer Chris Block. Morales closed the card by winning on Testaruda, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Frank Carl Calabrese and trained by Angel M. Rodriguez.

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.

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.

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.

Items to be bid on during the auctions 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.

For details, call the Chaplain’s office at (813) 854-1313 or RTCA—TBD President Sharyn Wasiluk at (813) 494-1870.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:55 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.