CHANCES ARE PRETTY GOOD PASCO, GASPARILLA WILL PRODUCE STARS

by Mike Henry

It’s a funny thing about history: sometimes you don’t know it’s being made until years after it happens.

If that sounds like a Yogi Berra-ism, well, a horse named Yogi Berra (after the Hall of Fame Yankees catcher) was 2-for-2 at Tampa Bay Downs in 2014. Remember?

Here’s something else you might have forgotten, or not even known. Since 2009, six winners of the 7-furlong Pasco Stakes for 3-year-olds at Tampa Bay Downs subsequently accounted for 10 graded-stakes victories.

Certainly, a lot of fans recall 2009 Pasco winner Musket Man, who not only won the (then)-Grade III Tampa Bay Derby and Grade II Illinois Derby, but finished third in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Other Pasco winners to capture graded victories afterward include Prospective (2011); Dynamic Sky (2013); Catalina Red (2015); World of Trouble (who won two Grade I stakes after his 2018 Pasco victory); and Grade I winner Win Win Win (2019), who set the Oldsmar track record of 1:20.89 in his Pasco triumph.

OK, so you had a pretty good idea the Pasco has produced more than its share of top-quality winners (and a couple of runners-up who went on to much bigger and better things, General Quarters in 2009 and X Y Jet in 2015).

What you likely didn’t know, though, is that the 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes – Tampa Bay Downs’s 3-year-old fillies counterpart, which shares top billing with the Pasco on the Jan. 15 Skyway Festival Day card – has just about an equally impressive record of producing winners who bathed themselves in greater glory later.

Since 2006, six fillies have won a combined eight graded stakes after their Gasparilla triumph, including subsequent Grade III Florida Oaks winners at Tampa Bay Downs Awesome Chic (2008) and Diva Delite (2010), along with 2015 Gasparilla winner Irish Jasper, who went on to win three graded stakes.

That statistic fails to mention 2003 Gasparilla winner Ebony Breeze, who subsequently won four Grade III stakes, including the Florida Oaks, for an owner who knew Yogi pretty well: George Steinbrenner.

Well, the point is (and we know you made it this far, or you wouldn’t still be reading) that nominations have been released for the two $125,000 3-year-old races, along with the third stakes on the Jan. 15 program, the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.

The 24th running of the Pasco, technically for 3-year-olds of both sexes, closed with 29 colt and gelding nominees, including three of the first four finishers in the Dec. 4 Inaugural Stakes here: winner Cattin, a colt trained by Ralph Nicks; third-place finisher Grand Valley, a colt trained by Victor Barboza, Jr.; and fourth-place finisher Magical Mousse, a colt conditioned by Jesse Cruz.

Among the other Pasco nominees are two from Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, Oldsmar maiden winner Provocateur and Dean’s List.

Here is the link for the nominations to the Pasco, followed by the link to their past performances:

https://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbHorsemenAreaDownloadAction.cfm?sn=SN-TAM-20220115-573158

https://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbHorsemenAreaDownloadAction.cfm?sn=SNPP-TAM-20220115-573158

The 38th running of the Gasparilla (first run in 1984, when Berra managed the Yankees), closed with 26 sophomore fillies nominated. Included are the first three finishers in the Sandpiper Stakes here on Dec. 4: winner Strategic Bird, trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Mark Casse; runner-up Devine Charger, trained by Jordan Blair; and third-place finisher Chasing Happiness, trained by David Fawkes, along with a two-time stakes winner trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Outfoxed.

Here is the link for the nominations to the Gasparilla, followed by the link to their past performances:

https://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbHorsemenAreaDownloadAction.cfm?sn=SN-TAM-20220115-573160

https://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbHorsemenAreaDownloadAction.cfm?sn=SNPP-TAM-20220115-573160

The 38th running of the Wayward Lass has attracted 19 nominations, including Special Princess, the dead-heat winner of last year’s Gasparilla. Here is the link for the nominations to the Wayward Lass, followed by the link to their past performances:

https://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbHorsemenAreaDownloadAction.cfm?sn=SN-TAM-20220115-573159

https://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbHorsemenAreaDownloadAction.cfm?sn=SNPP-TAM-20220115-573159

(Yogi and George, we miss ya.)

Around the oval. Jose Batista rode two winners today. He was on 10-year-old gelding Native Hawk in the first race for owner-trainer Juan Arriagada. Batista added the sixth on 3-year-old gelding My Way Or No Way for owner Valentin Jimenez and trainer Carlos Munoz.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m. The feature is the eighth race, a $27,000, 6-furlong allowance/optional claiming event for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward.

High Rollers Handicapping Contest is Saturday. The annual High Rollers Handicapping Contest Presented by HorseTourneys is Saturday, 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 www.tampabaydowns.com and make the required $1,000 payment by noon on Jan. 8. For details, contact Margo Flynn at mjflynn@tampabaydowns.com or (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.