by Mike Henry

A wet day at the races beats a dry day at most other places.

Thoroughbred racing fans looking for excitement found their share today, despite the nonstop rain Tuesday and early Wednesday morning that turned the main track sloppy, forced four races to be switched from the turf to the main and resulted in 22 scratches.

In the first race, jockey Lexander Sanchez, who has ridden 61 winners in Venezuela, got his first victory in the United States with just his seventh mount aboard 5-year-old horse El Samuro, now 3-for-11. It was also the first U.S. victory for trainer Rafael Romero, who has saddled more than 200 winners in Venezuela.

At the opposite end of the wins spectrum, jockey Scott Spieth earned career victory No. 4,927 in the fifth race with a gate-to-wire performance at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Onward Austin, whose six previous starts showed no discernible off-track form but who relished the slop like your 3-year-old kid in his Sunday suit. Onward Austin paid $78.40 to win as the longest shot in the field.

A race earlier, the striking dark bay 4-year-old filly Nette Nette made an impressive career debut for owner Allen Stable and trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III, running away from her opposition to score a 7 ¾-length victory in 1:12.62 for the 6-furlong distance. Pablo Morales rode Nette Nette, a $950,000 purchase by her owner at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale (memo to self: remember to ask a jockey who rides such expensive horses if it adds an extra layer or three of pressure).

Nette Nette is a daughter of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, and her mom is Vaulcluse, a daughter of A.P. Indy who was 3-for-3 in her career, including a stakes-record triumph here in the 2008 Suncoast Stakes in her final start. That makes Nette Nette a half-sister to Lukes Alley, a Grade I winner and the 2014 Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s Champion Older Horse.

Morales won another race, the seventh, on 4-year-old filly Tami’s Orchid, whose pedigree claim to fame is as a daughter of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, who finished third in that year’s Tampa Bay Derby. Hopefully for her connections, the now 1-for-10 runner is a late-developing type; she responded well to Morales’s urgings down the lane.

Some get it eventually, some never do. Horses, and people.

Think about it – $950,000 for a horse. And Elizabeth “National Velvet” Taylor won The Pie in a lottery.

Well, this isn’t Hollywood, but those enduring four-letter words of HOPE and LOVE of the horse keep us coming back, even on a day when the sun forgets to shine.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday 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.