by Mike Henry

Juan Cacho Castro was running in several different directions after Pink Mama’s fourth consecutive victory in today’s fifth race at Tampa Bay Downs, a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming contest for older fillies and mares.

As the owner of the 4-year-old Florida-bred, Castro’s presence was required for the winner’s-circle photograph. As the assistant to trainer Gerald Bennett, though, Castro’s first responsibility was hosing down Pink Mama after her powerhouse effort on a sultry afternoon.

Castro was also wanted for a media interview, and he needed to get another Bennett charge, 3-year-old colt The Great Loudini, ready for the seventh race.

All in a day’s work – and the type of experience the 34-year-old Castro wouldn’t mind occurring on a regular basis.

“I’m surprised she is running that way. She’s a nice filly, and she just keeps improving,” Castro said after Pink Mama took the measure of Axial Load on the far turn and sped to a five-length victory in a swift time of 1:09.47, less than a second off the track record.

Bennett, who is virtually assured of a second consecutive Tampa Bay Downs training title with 47 victories, claimed Pink Mama on behalf of Castro for $10,000 from a second-place effort on Dec. 28. She won twice sprinting for her new connections on the main track before posting a four-and-a-quarter length victory in a five-furlong allowance/optional claiming turf victory on April 8.

Her four recent victories have been by a combined margin of 21 ¼ lengths. Edwin Gonzalez has been aboard for each triumph. Pink Mama is now 8-for-17 lifetime with four seconds.

“She got the lead right away today (from the outside No. 7 post) and I grabbed her because I didn’t want to be there,” Gonzalez said. “She is really doing well.”

Castro's brother Victor, another Bennett assistant, led Pink Mama into the winner's enclosure.

Castro is appreciative for the opportunity to campaign Pink Mama, one of several horses he has owned that have been trained by Bennett. “It’s hard to explain the feeling,” said Castro, a native of Michoacan, Mexico. “I’ve worked for (Bennett) for a long time, and he’s been like my dad. He’s always helped me a lot.”

The first horse Castro owned was the filly Crystal Rosario, which he purchased in Ocala as a 2-year-old. She won her debut for Castro and Bennett, a maiden claiming race in 2015 at Monmouth, and was claimed for $20,000, returning in her next start to finish second in the Sorority Stakes.

Bennett has high hopes for Pink Mama. “The Claiming Crown at Gulfstream (in December) is our main objective,” he said. “I would say she is the best claim of this meeting.”

With earnings from her four victories of $54,610, Bennett could be spot-on in his assessment.

Around the oval. Leading jockey Daniel Centeno rode three winners today, extending his lead in the standings from Gonzalez to 93-79. Centeno was aboard winning 5-year-old mare Hold Me Tight in the fourth race for owner Leonard Racing Stable and trainer George Leonard, III.

Centeno added the sixth, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week on the turf, on 3-year-old La Parisienne for owners Catesby W. Clay and Nicolas de Chambure and trainer Arnaud Delacour. He then rode ninth-race turf winner Sandy Whirlwind, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Metro Thoroughbreds and trained by Derek Ryan.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. The feature event is the sixth race, an allowance/$75,000 optional claiming contest for 3-year-olds competing at a mile on the turf course.

The morning-line favorite at 7-2 in the field of nine colts and geldings is Prince Arlo, a gelding owned by AES Thoroughbreds and trained by Anthony Granitz. Wilmer Garcia will be in the saddle.

Eight racing days remain in the 2016-2017 meeting, including the June 30 card, which is the first day of the track’s two-day Summer Festival of Racing and Music. On Saturday, May 6, Tampa Bay Downs will simulcast the 143rd edition of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. A field of 20 3-year-olds is expected to line up for the world’s most famous race at Churchill Downs.

The Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies is Friday, May 5. First-race post time both days is 10:30 a.m., and the gates at Tampa Bay Downs will open at 10, with a full card of racing each day preceding the big events in Louisville.

Mint juleps will be on sale on Derby Day at Tampa Bay Downs in official souvenir glasses. The glasses are also on sale (minus beverage) for $6 in the gift shop, along with official Kentucky Derby T-shirts.

Fans can also expect to see the latest in haute couture two Saturdays hence, including a wide array of memorable hats, dresses and ties, as race-goers enjoy the numerous traditions that make the Run for the Roses such a spectacle.

As an added bonus, Sunday, May 7 is Fan Appreciation Day at Tampa Bay Downs. Grandstand admission is free and hot dogs, sodas and 12-ounce beers cost $1.50 from noon-3 p.m.

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.