BENNETT, CENTENO KEEP CHALLENGERS AT BAY, BUT GONZALEZ GAINING

by Mike Henry

Five-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno rode two winners today, giving him nine over the last six racing days.

But while Centeno and leading trainer Gerald Bennett made their pursuers’ task a bit more difficult by teaming for two victories on a “Chamber of Commerce” early-spring afternoon, Edwin Gonzalez rode three winners to signal his intention of giving Centeno a tussle.

Gonzalez, who rode six winners here on March 10, has 58 for the meeting, 12 behind Centeno and one behind four-time track champion Ronnie Allen, Jr.

After winning the sixth race, a maiden special weight contest for 3-year-olds, on Florida-bred Anotador for owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trainer Alfredo Ronso, Gonzalez swept both halves of the late daily double.

He won the eighth race on 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding Great Harbour Cay for owner Acclaimed Racing Stable and trainer Mandy Ness. In the ninth race on the turf, Gonzalez reached the winner’s circle on 3-year-old Florida-bred colt Gorse, a 12-1 shot, for owner Donegal Racing and trainer Jordan Blair.

Bennett, the defending Oldsmar training champion, upped his win total to 34, six ahead of past champion Kathleen O’Connell. Centeno has 70 victories, 11 ahead of Ronnie Allen, Jr. Pablo Morales is fourth with 54.

Bennett and Centeno teamed to win today’s second race, a maiden claiming contest, with 4-year-old Florida-bred filly My First Honey. Owned by Bennett’s Winning Stables, Inc., and Ray Rech, My First Honey was claimed from the race by trainer Victor Carrasco, Jr., for new owner William Rivera.

The Bennett-Centeno duo added the fourth race to its tally with 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Nano’s Crown. She is owned by Winning Stables, James Georgeades and C. Gregge Dasher.

O’Connell and Allen teamed to win today’s seventh race on the turf with 5-year-old mare Lilies and Roses. She is owned by Thor-Bred Stable.

In the owner standings, Ridenjac Racing narrowed the gap against defending champion Jagger, Inc., which has been idle since owner-trainer Jamie Ness transferred those runners to his wife Mandy Ness following his 100-day suspension for medication violations from December 2012 to April 2014.

Ridenjac picked up its 13th victory of the meeting – two fewer than Jagger – in today’s first race with 8-year-old horse Smart and True, trained by Ward and ridden by Jose Ferrer. Bruno Schickedanz is third with 10 victories, followed by Colebrook Farms with nine and Justin Johns with eight.

Ridenjac is named for Ward’s grandchildren Riley, Denae and Jack. 

Around the oval. Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:55 p.m. The feature is the fifth race, a $24,500 allowance/optional claiming race for horses 4-years-old-and-upward going a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf course.

The 2-1 morning-line favorite in the field of seven is Irish Strait, a 5-year-old gelding trained by H. Graham Motion and to be ridden by Jesus Castanon. Irish Strait finished third in his most recent start, the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb. 11, only a length behind winner Inspector Lynley.

Tampa Bay Downs 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.