by Mike Henry

Pablo Morales started 2022 with a bang, riding five winners to move into second place in the early-season Tampa Bay Downs jockey standings.

Morales, a 33-year-old Lima, Peru product, got things going by sweeping the early daily double. He won the first race on Imtakinittothebank, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Volar Corporation and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. Morales captured the second race on Jack Rabbit Quick, another 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding bred and owned by Endsley Oaks Farm and trained by Rafael Schistl.

Morales’s next victory came in the fifth, when he kept 8-year-old campaigner Nick the Cardshark to the task through the stretch to defeat long shot Killeen by a head. Jose H. Delgado trains Nick the Cardshark for owner Carole Star Stables. Morales then won the ninth race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, on 6-year-old gelding Mystic Link for owner Kelly’s Racing and trainer Jon Arnett.

By winning the 10th, the Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test aboard 6-year-old gelding Dazzling Truths, Morales accomplished the rare feat of winning both halves of the early and late daily doubles. Dazzling Truths is owned by Sabal Racing Stables and Patrick Rhodes and trained by Darien Rodriguez, the same connections to win the Tampa Turf Test Fillies and Mares Division with Vip Nation.


Pablo Morales

Morales got the most out of Dazzling Truths through the stretch, powering him to a 1 ¾-length victory from Bird’s Eye View. He paid $6.80 to win after completing the 1-mile distance in 1:37.50.

Morales also had a second and a third from eight mounts. It was his second career five-victory day at Tampa Bay Downs, having gone 5-for-5 on May 4, 2019 (Kentucky Derby Day). Morales rode five winners on back-to-back days on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24 at Presque Isle Downs, where he was the runaway jockey champion.

Approaching the 10th race today, Morales knew he was in a zone and feeling good about his chances. “I’m sure it helped (winning three of the first five races), because everything flows and I was confident and happy. But it was also a factor that I was sitting on good horses and trying to give them good trips,” Morales said.

“I’m hoping this helps me get a little more business, because I think I’m doing pretty well. I don’t even ride Wednesday, but I’m happy to at least be able to win some races with what I have. Hopefully, this will open more doors and create more opportunities and I can take advantage. God willing, I’ll stay healthy and I’ll keep working hard and I think I’ll be alright.

“Of all the racetracks I’ve ridden, you don’t take anything for granted here,” he added. “It’s definitely not easy, so days like this I feel very lucky to go home to my family happy and to be able to keep working to gain more wins.”

Antonio Gallardo leads the jockey standings with 19 victories, followed by Morales with 18 and Samy Camacho with 17.

In today’s seventh race, a $19,000 starter/optional claiming event for older fillies and mares sprinting 6 furlongs, 6-year-old Florida-bred Suzie’ssteppinout gave her all through the stretch to post a come-from-behind neck victory from Lady Jean. The victory was the 12th in 45 career starts for Suzie’ssteppinout, a daughter of Two Step Salsa out of the Officer mare Suzanne.

Scott Spieth rode Suzie’ssteppinout, who sped the distance in 1:11.07.

Trainer Maria Bowersock said after the race that owner Martin Goodell, who bred the horse with his wife Emily, is retiring the mare to their farm in Ocala. She departs the racetrack with career earnings of $260,847. Bowersock said the Goodells plan to breed Suzie’ssteppinout later this year.

“She’s not very big, but she tries hard,” said an emotional Bowersock, who trained her to all her victories.

The 7-year-old mare Vip Nation won the Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward who started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2021. It was contested as the eighth race.

Vip Nation moved almost effortlessly to the lead approaching the far turn under jockey Antonio Gallardo. But she was hard-pressed to hold off late challenges from runner-up Pugilist and third-place finisher C’Est Mardi, winning by a neck from Pugilist.

The heavy favorite, Vip Nation paid $3.00 to win after completing the distance in 1:37.49. The victory was her fifth in a row (one via disqualification). As mentioned previously, she is owned by Sabal Racing Stable and Patrick Rhodes and trained by Darien Rodriguez.

Around the oval. Gallardo’s victory on Vip Nation was his second on the card. He also won the fourth race on the turf on Roughly a Diamond, a 3-year-old filly owned by Circle 8 and trained by Michelle Nihei.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:14 p.m. 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.