by Mike Henry

A pair of well-bred 2-year-olds from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher finished first and second in today’s fifth race, a $31,500 maiden special weight contest for juveniles at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards on the main track.

Pioneer of Medina, a son of Pioneerof the Nile out of Lights of Medina making his third career start, broke with good energy, surrendered the lead to first-time starter Quantum Theory on the clubhouse turn, then took over inside the half-mile pole. With jockey Pablo Morales appearing in control  the majority of the way, Pioneer of Medina held off a belated charge from stablemate Complete Agenda to win by a length-and-a-half.

The Thunderer ran on well to finish third in the field of six.

Pioneer of Medina, second and third in his first two starts, completed the distance in a time of 1:42.71. He is owned by Sumaya U.S. Stable.

Complete Agenda, who finished fifth in his lone previous start, was ridden by Daniel Centeno for Pletcher and owners Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable. The son of Curlin, out of the Bellamy Road Grade I-winning mare Constellation, was a $250,000 purchase by Repole and St. Elias at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Complete Agenda threatened to make a race of it approaching the 1/16-mile pole, but Pioneer of Medina had enough in reserve to fend off the challenge.

It is not unusual for Pletcher to run relatively untested 2-year-olds at Tampa Bay Downs this time of year, and it paid off in a big way in January of 2017 when his maiden 3-year-old colt Always Dreaming – owned by St. Elias in partnership – used a victory at Tampa Bay Downs as a springboard to Kentucky Derby glory three starts later.

It’s still too early to draw meaningful comparisons; what matters most is that both horses showed the ability to be competitive and willing throughout a two-turn race, a trait they will need to polish to run for big money after they turn 3 on Jan. 1.

Around the oval. Thoroughbred racing continues Thursday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m. The feature is the eighth race, a $31,500 maiden special weight event for 2-year-olds sprinting 6 furlongs. The 10-horse field includes colts trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Todd Pletcher, Jonathan Thomas, Eoin Harty and John P. Terranova, II.

Nine races will be contested Friday, then Tampa Bay Downs will be closed Christmas Day, Dec. 25, before returning Sunday with a nine-race program at 12:15 p.m.

From that point, Tampa Bay Downs will race on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 17.

The track is open every day except Christmas and Easter 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.

John Bisono rode two winners on today’s card. He won the fourth race on the turf on I Say I Play, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Gabriel Suarez and trained by Victor Carrasco, Jr. Bisono added the eighth race aboard first-time starter Spanish Soul, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Elaine Vinson and trained by John G. Vinson.