by Mike Henry

Thoroughbred racing fans have an opportunity to meet some of the track’s top jockeys and horsemen by participating in the 25th annual “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament, Dinner and Charity Auction on Monday, March 6.

The event benefits the Race Track Chaplaincy of America—Tampa Bay Downs Division and individuals served by the RTCA. The “Hearts Reaching Out” extravaganza kicks off the track’s “Festival Week,” which culminates on Saturday, March 11 with a stakes-laden card highlighted by the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-olds.

The undefeated colt McCraken, 4-for-4 after his record-shattering performance here in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 11, is expected to return to Oldsmar in two weeks for owner Whitham Thoroughbreds and trainer Ian Wilkes.

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 auctioned 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.

Around the oval. Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with an eight-race card beginning at 12:55 p.m. Four races are scheduled for the turf course, and today’s afternoon sunshine and gusty winds have raised hopes for a return to the grass.

Pablo Morales and Edwin Gonzalez each rode three winners today. In the first race, Morales triumphed aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Bull E Winkle for owner Carol A. Reitman and trainer Dale Bennett.

Morales captured the sixth race on 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Sealed With a Kiss for owner John C. Terlep and trainer William “Buff” Bradley. He added the seventh aboard Here’s Johnny, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Sabal Racing Stable and trained by Darien Rodriguez.

Gonzalez managed to keep pace throughout the day, taking the second race on Financial Freedom, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Charles Tebbutt and trained by John Tebbutt. Financial Freedom was claimed from the race by owner-trainer Maria Bowersock.

Gonzalez won the fifth race on Two Steps Before, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by William Rivera and trained by Victor Carrasco, Jr. The rider added the eighth race on Regal Heiress, a 3-year-old filly owned by Usquebaugh Stables and trained by Laura Cazares.

Tampa Bay Downs will conduct Thoroughbred racing on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule through the end of April, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 16, when the track is closed. Otherwise, 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.