by Mike Henry

Miguel Feliciano was set to retire from training after his long-time client, prominent breeder-owner Dr. Daniel W. Frazier of Tampa, died last March.

But when his younger brother Benny R. Feliciano, also a trainer, suggested he claim a 3-year-old filly at Tampa Bay Downs for $8,000 on April 2, Miguel’s competitive juices switched into gear.

Tango Lima won that day in her final start for her former connections, and she hasn’t lost since. The now-4-year-old filly scored her sixth consecutive victory in today’s third race, taking the lead in the stretch and holding off Awfully Sinful by a neck in the starter/$12,500 optional claiming event for older fillies and mares going six-and-a-half furlongs.

Tango Lima, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Artie Schiller-Deli Lama, by Langfuhr, is 7-for-10 in her career. Ricardo Feliciano, Benny’s son and Miguel’s nephew, was the jockey. Ricardo also won the second race on Goldrushcat, a 4-year-old filly owned by Loooch Racing Stables and trained by Anthony Rini.

Today’s victory came on Benny’s 66th birthday. Tango Lima’s time was 1:18.15.

“She’s a nice filly who always gives you 100 percent, but sometimes you have to get lucky, too,” said Miguel, who currently trains seven horses after carrying as many as 50 several years ago. “My brother saw her race on the turf (last Feb. 28) where she got in trouble, and he wanted to claim her, but he claimed another horse instead.

“When I saw the replay (of her grass race), I decided to claim her for myself and get a few more horses to race at Thistledown (JACK Thistledown Racino).”

The elder Feliciano won 10 races from 32 starts at the Cleveland-area track, where he has long been a fixture (Benny did even better, going 13-for-40). Three of those victories came from Tango Lima before she was given time off to recover from a minor illness.

Tango Lima returned to action with a flourish on Jan. 6 in a six-furlong starter/optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs, drawing off to win by almost five lengths under Samy Camacho.

Ricardo Feliciano has ridden Tango Lima in four of her five starts for his uncle, winning once by a head and three times by a neck. “When she comes from behind, she’ll kind of take her time, get her head in front and wait for everybody,” the rider said. “She’s always much the best, but she does just enough to get it done and that’s it.

“She’s got a lot of heart, and that’s usually half the battle. My uncle claimed a good one, and she keeps getting better and better. She is fun to be around and easy to work with.”

Miguel has trained almost 1,400 winner since he began in 1983. Among his best horses were the Ohio-bred mare Pay the Man, who won 21 stakes while earning more than $1-million, and the Florida-bred gelding Bernie Blue, who won 12 stakes and almost $950,000.

Pay the Man and Bernie Blue were both bred by Frazier and raced under his Pyrite Stables banner.

Around the oval. In today’s featured seventh race, an allowance/$75,000 optional claiming affair for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs, Laney staged a furious rally to defeat 2-5 favorite Jumby Bay by a nose under jockey Angel Cruz. Teresa Z finished another head back in third.

Laney, a daughter of Shackleford-Croon, by Indian Charlie, won for the third time in seven starts. She is owned by Joseph W. Sutton and trained by Eddie Kenneally. Jumby Bay finished second for the third consecutive time after settling for the runner-up spot here in the Dec. 3 Sandpiper Stakes and the Jan. 21 Gasparilla Stakes.

Daniel Centeno and Edwin Gonzalez each rode two winners today. Centeno’s victories came in the eighth and ninth races, first scoring aboard 3-year-old colt Upper Room for owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing and trainer Arnaud Delacour.

Centeno added the ninth race on the turf on first-time starter Ponti Scheme, a 3-year-old filly sired by Gio Ponti and owned by Castleton Lyons and trained by Christophe Clement.

Gonzalez won the first race on 8-year-old mare Moonstone Beach, owned and trained by M. Anthony Ferraro. Gonzalez added the sixth race on the turf aboard 6-year-old gelding Not Goliath for owner HANNEMM and trainer Mandy Ness.

The 10th race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week on the turf, went to 4-year-old filly Yahtzee Queen. A homebred racing for Hinkle Farms, she is trained by William “Buff” Bradley and was ridden by Manoel Cruz.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:42 p.m. Four turf races are scheduled.

Sunday is “Kids and Family Day,” with partygoers welcome to join the fun in the Backyard Picnic Area adjacent to the saddling paddock during the races.

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.

Next Saturday, March 11, Tampa Bay Downs presents its Festival Day program, highlighted by the 37th edition of the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby,” awarding 50 points to the winner toward qualifying for a spot in the (expected) 20-horse field for the Run for the Roses on May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The second, third and fourth-place finishers will receive 20, 10 and 5 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points.

Two horses have used the Tampa Bay Derby as a stepping stone toward winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands: Street Sense, who won both races in 2007, and Super Saver, who finished third in the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby before his glorious success under the Twin Spires.

Also part of the Festival Day extravaganza are the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes, for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf course; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; the $100,000 Challenger Stakes, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track; and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes, for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf.

Tampa Bay Downs conducts Thoroughbred racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through 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.