by Mike Henry

Jockey Fernando De La Cruz was transported to Tampa Community Hospital for observation and treatment after re-injuring his left shoulder during the running of today’s fourth race.

De La Cruz managed to finish first aboard Tribal Message in the mile-and-a-sixteenth turf claiming event, but was experiencing too much pain to return to the winner’s circle on his mount. His victory aboard the 6-year-old gelding was the rider’s third in a row on today’s card and fifth over the last two racing days.

Tribal Message is a 6-year-old gelding owned by Mitchell Markow and trained by George Leonard, III.

The 30-year-old De La Cruz first injured his shoulder Friday when he was unseated by his mount at the start of a race. De La Cruz rode his remaining mounts, then took off Saturday before returning to win two races Sunday.

His first victory today came in the second race on 6-year-old mare Sheza Ruler for owners Anthony Granitz, Ron Venturini and Jeremiah Stables, with Granitz the trainer. Sheza Ruler was claimed for $6,250 by trainer Dennis Ward for his Ridenjac Racing outfit.

De La Cruz next scored in the third race on 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Lil’ Charlie for owners Odessa Farms and Three Lyons Racing and trainer Wayne Mogge.

Following his three-bagger, De La Cruz is fifth in the Tampa Bay Downs jockeys standings with 54 victories.

De La Cruz’s Peruvian countryman, Pablo Morales, was off today after incurring a concussion in Sunday’s sixth race when he fell from his mount.

Around the oval. Trainer George Leonard, III saddled two winners today. In addition to Tribal Message, Leonard sent out 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding Fancy Man to win the seventh race.

Fancy Man, who was owned by Dave Hearn, was claimed for $5,000 by owner-trainer Victor Carrasco, Jr.

Leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno rode two winners today. He scored in the fifth race on What About Tonight, a 3-year-old filly owned by Pecoraro Racing Stable and trained by Anthony Pecoraro. Centeno added the ninth and final race on the turf on Little Creek, a 3-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by Krista and Edward A. Seltzer and trained by Ben Colebrook.

Today’s eighth race produced the largest trifecta payout of the 2016-2017 meeting after 77-1 shot Melora, a 6-year-old Florida-bred mare, won the 1-mile turf starter allowance by two lengths under jockey Samy Camacho, paying $157.40 to win.

With fellow long shots Sweet Story and Awfully Sinful finishing second and third, the $1 trifecta combination of 6-9-8 paid $6,707.80. Melora is owned by Martinez Polo and Racing and trained by Teresa Connelly.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. The feature event is the sixth race, an allowance/$32,000 optional claiming, six-furlong sprint for horses 4-years-old-and-upward. The seven-horse field is headed by Carolina Speed, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Mandy Ness who has won his last two starts at the Oldsmar oval. Edwin Gonzalez will be the jockey.

Dynatail, a 3-year-old filly trained by Tampa Bay Downs conditioner Mike Dini, is part of a 12-horse field for Thursday’s Grade III, $125,000 Appalachian Stakes Presented by Japan Racing Association at Keeneland.  

The event for sophomore distaffers is at a mile on the turf. Dynatail, who is owned by Ballybrit Stable, will be ridden by Tampa Bay Downs jockey Orlando Bocachica.

Dynatail, a stakes winner who captured two races at the Oldsmar oval before finishing fourth in the Grade III Florida Oaks on the turf, is 20-1 on the Appalachian morning line. The 7-2 favorite is La Coronel, a Grade III winner who finished second to Fifty Five in the Florida Oaks. La Coronel is trained by Mark Casse and will be ridden by Florent Geroux.

Inspector Lynley, who won the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf here on Feb. 11, is part of a 12-horse field for Friday’s simulcast of the Grade I, $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes on the turf course at Keeneland.

The Maker’s 46 Mile is the ninth race on Friday’s Keeneland card. Inspector Lynley, a 4-year-old colt who is trained by Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III and will be ridden by John Velazquez, is 8-1 on the morning line.

The morning-line favorite at 3-1 is Heart to Heart, a 6-year-old who finished second in this race last year and won the Grade III Canadian Turf Stakes on March 4 at Gulfstream in his most recent start. Julien Leparoux will be aboard for trainer Brian Lynch.

Also entered is 4-year-old colt Bondurant, who finished fifth in the Tampa Bay Stakes. He is trained by Ian Wilkes and will be ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr. Bondurant, who is by War Front out of Ivory Empress, by Seeking the Gold, is a half-brother to McCraken, the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner on Feb. 11 at Tampa Bay Downs. McCraken finished third in Saturday’s Grade II Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

Tampa Bay Downs conducts Thoroughbred racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the May 6-7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands weekend, with the exception of Easter Sunday, when the track is closed, and May 3.

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.