by Mike Henry

Gina Wright had a dream Friday night. Her husband, trainer Michael Wright, was standing in the Tampa Bay Downs winner’s circle after capturing his sixth consecutive victory.

Entering Saturday’s $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes, that scenario seemed like a pipe dream to most observers. The conditioner had entered the 7-year-old Colebrook Farms mare Nantucket Red, who would go off at odds of 15-1. Her surprising 3-length victory under jockey Olaf Hernandez brought Gina’s dream a step closer to reality, and Hernandez made it happen in today’s third race with a cagey ride aboard 11-10 favorite More Chances.

The 5-year-old gelding, who was breaking his maiden in his 14th start, is owned by Wright’s assistant, Mike Dunslow, who claimed More Chances for $5,000 from his previous start on Nov. 12 at Woodbine in Toronto.

“When you put them in the right race, that’s all that matters,” Wright said. “That’s what you told me years ago,” Dunslow agreed. “Don’t put them in over their heads.”


Trainer Michael Wright, left, in a photo taken Jan. 7 with Nantucket Red, groom Michael Whitelaw and jockey Isabelle C. Wenc

Now, Wright – perhaps best known as the trainer of Scotzanna, who won a pair of Sovereign Awards in 1995 as Canada’s Champion Sprinter and Champion 3-Year-Old Filly – is chasing some serious Oldsmar oval history. In 1977, trainer E.T. Clark won with nine consecutive starters, when the track was known as Florida Downs, from Jan. 28-Feb. 4. Wright will try for seven in a row in Wednesday’s eighth race with 6-year-old gelding Victor’s Destiny, also owned by Dunslow. Hernandez will be aboard.

Besides being a Thoroughbred owner, Gina Wright is a nurse who often works nights, and was unable to attend the races Saturday. That’s OK, now, as long as she keeps getting her dream-inducing slumber.

Hernandez engineered dream trips in both weekend victories for Wright’s charges. “He did a great job. He’s a hard worker and he’s at the barn every morning,” Wright said.

The Wright barn is a fun place to be a part of, made more so by the current winning streak. “He (Wright) is the warden and I’m the assistant warden,” Dunslow said.

And for now, they are taking no prisoners.

Around the oval. Wicked Miah is working on a streak of her own. The 5-year-old mare captured her third consecutive victory in today’s seventh race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, digging in through the stretch for a gutsy half-length victory from Sip’n Dip. Rocco Bowen rode the late-blooming Wicked Miah, who made all six of her previous starts at Woodbine, for owners David B. Bloom and Tedston Holder, who is also her trainer.

Another streak came to an end, as morning rain caused today’s scheduled turf races to be moved to the main track. Those three races were the first to be taken off the turf since the 2021-2022 meet resumed on Nov. 24.

Wilmer Garcia rode two long-shot winners today. He won the first race on 9-1 shot Whistle Me Home, a 7-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned and trained by Kathleen Guciardo. Garcia added the eighth aboard Deny, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Steven Mueller and trained by Rob O’Connor, II.

Saturday is “Cap Giveaway Day,” with all patrons receiving the 2022 version of the Tampa Bay Downs cap with paid admission, while supplies last. Due to the risk from the Omicron variant, jockeys will not be signing caps as in past years, but all concerned are confident the cap will be a valuable memento of a day at the races.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:15 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.