by Mike Henry

A trio of quality allowance/optional claiming races highlighted today’s racing action at Tampa Bay Downs, as Thoroughbreds at the Oldsmar oval moved a day closer to celebrating their “birthdays” on Saturday, New Year’s Day.

Before proceeding with those details, a shocking upset by first-time starter Firewater Tu in the ninth race on the turf produced a carryover pool of $46,708 into Wednesday’s late 50-cent Pick-5 wager, since no bettor correctly selected all five race winners. Firewater Tu paid $98.60 after winning under jockey Skyler Spanabel for owner Jennifer Sinapius and trainer Robert G. Smith.

In the sixth race, the $29,000 Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week for sprinters 3-years-old-and-upward, 6-year-old gelding Payne split horses in deep stretch and charged to a 1 ¾-length victory from Ship It Red. Payne, now 5-for-15, posted a fine time of 1:10.71 for the 6-furlong distance under jockey Antonio Gallardo.

Payne, who paid $10.20 to win, is owned by George A. Sharp and trained by Caio Caramori. First-place money of $16,500 raised Payne’s career earnings to $290,814.

In the third race, 3-year-old colt Wolfie’s Dynaghost welcomed a drop from stakes competition into the allowance/optional claiming ranks, rallying on the turn for home and finishing with good energy for a length-and-a-half triumph from Patriot Drive.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost paid $4.40 to win as the 6-5 betting favorite in the field of eight. His time for the mile was 1:35.32.

Jesus Castanon rode Wolfie’s Dynaghost, who improved to 3-for-8 for breeder-owner Woodslane Farm and trainer Tom Albertrani. Before today’s race, Wolfie’s Dynaghost had raced in stakes company in four of his five previous starts, three on the grass, managing a third in the Better Talk Now Stakes in August at Saratoga.

It will be interesting to see if today’s victory serves as a confidence booster to elevate Wolfie’s Dynaghost back into stakes competition.

In the eighth race, a $28,000, 6-furlong event for fillies and mares 3-and-upward, Pink Shoelaces won for the second time at the meeting and second time since being claimed by trainer Tony Wilson for $30,000. She rallied for a neck victory from pace-setter Above Par for her second consecutive victory with Daniel Centeno in the irons.

Pink Shoelaces, who is owned by Happy Tenth Stable, sped the distance in 1:11.21. She paid $21.20 to win.

All Thoroughbreds in North America are considered to be a year older each Jan. 1 for record-keeping purposes. 

High Rollers Handicapping Contest is Jan. 8. The annual High Rollers Handicapping Contest Presented by HorseTourneys is Jan. 8, with first prize (based on 100 players) of $20,000. Players are required to deposit $1,000 to enter, with $500 serving as the player’s bankroll for wagering and the remaining $500 going to the prize pool. At the conclusion of the tournament, any dollar amount remaining in the bankroll remains the property of the player.

Wager types permitted are win, place and show only, with each player making five $100 win, place and/or show bets during the tournament. The player with the highest bankroll takes top prize (50 percent of the prize pool), plus a seat in either the 2022 or 2023 National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas, plus accommodations.

To enter, register at and make the required $1,000 payment by noon on Jan. 8. For details, contact Margo Flynn at or (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.

Around the oval. Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m. The feature race is the ninth, a $27,000, 5-furlong allowance/optional claiming contest on the turf for horses 3-years-old-and-upward. The morning-line 3-1 favorite in the field of 10 is 3-year-old gelding Jura, who broke his maiden here sprinting 5 furlongs on the lawn on Dec. 11.

Samy Camacho will ride Jura, a homebred competing for owner Mooncoin LLC and trained by J. Reeve McGaughey.

Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 17, when the track is closed. Otherwise, the Oldsmar oval 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.