by Mike Henry

In the current age of racing and breeding, the difference between eight-and-a-half and nine furlongs, even on the turf, can be enough to turn the stoutest of Thoroughbreds jelly-legged nearing the wire.

That wasn’t the case today with King of Diamonds.

The 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred gelding seemed to relish every step of his Lambholm South Race of the Week journey, pulling away from a game 35-1 Red Zone to post a length-and-a-quarter victory in the $22,500 allowance feature at Tampa Bay Downs. The 2-1 favorite, Map Room, finished third.

A son of Iron Deputy-Madame X Ski, by Polish Numbers, King of Diamonds tossed his head friskily in the winner’s circle, as if eager for another field to conquer. King of Diamonds’ time for the mile-and-an-eighth on the grass was a highly respectable 1:48.45.

The victory was the second in six starts for the homebred, who races for breeders-owners Susan and John Moore and trainer Arnaud Delacour. Daniel Centeno was the jockey, joining Delacour by the rail afterward to watch the replay on the track’s jumbo video board.

The victory was the second for King of Diamonds, who has not finished out of the money in six starts. Although both his victories are on turf, Delacour suspects he might be as talented on dirt (King of Diamonds was second in his career debut last January in a six-furlong sprint at Tampa Bay Downs to last week’s Pelican Stakes winner, Tiger Blood).

Centeno, the Oldsmar oval’s leading jockey with 58 victories, also won today’s third race on Inaswagger, giving the jockey five victories over the last two days. Inaswagger, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Averill Racing and trained by Gerald Bennett, was claimed from the race by trainer Dennis Ward for his Ridenjac Racing outfit.

A pair of quality maiden special weight main-track contests added more than a dose of excitement for a sun-splashed Tampa Bay Downs crowd. In the fourth race, well-bred 3-year-old colt Elusive Exchange (by Exchange Rate, out of Alwaan, by Elusive Quality) sprinted clear to a four-and-three-quarter length victory from Tizk Tizk in a time of 1:11.69 for six furlongs.

Mike Allen rode the winner, who was making his second career start. He is owned by Endsley Oaks Farm and trained by Randall R. Russell.

In the seventh race, for maiden 3-year-old fillies, Karen Sue surged to the lead at the quarter-mile pole and extended her advantage at the finish to five-and-a-quarter lengths from runner-up Mandolin. Karen Sue, who finished second in her career debut three weeks ago, is a homebred racing for Florida horseman Gilbert G. Campbell’s Stonehedge, LLC.

Pablo Morales rode Karen Sue, who is trained by Kathleen O’Connell. The winner’s six-furlong time was 1:12.08. she is by Circular Quay, out of Kiss N Karen, by Untuttable.

Morales also won the 10th and final race on the turf on Justadarling, a 4-year-old filly owned by Kim H. Deaton and trained by William Deaton.

Around the oval. Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. Sunday is Kids & Family Day, featuring a variety of events for the younger set in the Backyard Picnic Area, adjacent to the saddling paddock.

Games, pony rides and bounce houses are among the numerous attractions. Partygoers can also expect a visit from the track mascot, Mouse the Miniature Horse. The atmosphere is every bit as welcoming for newcomers as for established racing fans, and provides a thrilling view of the stretch run.

The Oldsmar oval conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout 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.