by Mike Henry

Emmanuel, a well-regarded colt owned by WinStar Farm and Siena Farm and trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Todd Pletcher, will take on five rivals in Sunday’s sixth race, a $34,000 allowance/optional claiming event for 3-year-olds at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards. Pablo Morales has the riding assignment.

Emmanuel, who broke his maiden by 6 ¾ lengths on Dec. 11 going a mile at Gulfstream, was scratched from a scheduled Jan. 7 start at Tampa Bay Downs after spiking a temperature. He has since posted two 4-furlong bullet workouts at Pletcher’s Palm Beach Downs base in Delray Beach, including a 47.92-second breeze on Saturday.

Included in the field are Pletcher’s colt In the Union, who broke his maiden here on Jan. 8 and will again be ridden by Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr.; Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse’s Glider, who will be ridden by Antonio Gallardo; and Boitano, trained by Eoin Harty and to be ridden by Jesus Castanon.

To casual observers, Emmanuel seems to be setting out on a similar 3-year-old path as Pletcher’s Always Dreaming in 2017. Always Dreaming broke his maiden here on Jan. 25 at the mile-and-40 distance in his third career start. What came next? Victories in an allowance/optional claiming event and the Grade I Xpressbet Florida Derby at Gulfstream, followed by a triumph in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands – the last win of his career, but enough to ensure him a slice of racing immortality.

Also on Sunday, 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Musetta, one of two horses belonging to winners of last month’s “Tampa Bay Owners Club” contest, returns to action in the seventh race, a $16,000 waiver claiming event at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward which have never won three races.

Musetta is owned by Carole Star Stables and trained by Jose H. Delgado. She will be ridden by Alonso Quinonez.

Individuals who picked Musetta or Lullaby Land on Dec. 18 in a 1-mile turf race (they finished in a dead-heat) were rewarded with membership in their horse’s fantasy owners’ syndicate for the duration of the Tampa Bay Downs meet. Club members receive many of the perks associated with Thoroughbred ownership each time their horse runs during the current meet, including free admission; a Tampa Bay Downs racing program; a mutuel voucher; concession-stand discounts; and a “Tampa Bay Owners Club” pin.

Musetta and Lullaby Land both ran in the same race on Jan. 15, with Lullaby Land finishing fourth and Musetta seventh. Lullaby Land’s next start has not been announced.

Camacho wins Salt Rock Tavern honor. Despite finishing 24th or higher in North America in wins each of the last four years, close observers have the sense Samy Camacho is poised for a breakthrough.

“He’s been winning on horses I can’t believe he’s winning on,” said his agent, former jockey Mike Moran. “He’s making smart moves and his timing is really good.

“He’s just finding ways to get there. He’s so focused – he’s doing whatever he can to be leading rider again.”


Samy Camacho

Camacho, a 33-year-old Caracas, Venezuela product, is well-positioned slightly more than one-third of the way through the meet to capture his third Tampa Bay Downs title in four seasons. He has 39 victories, nine more than runner-up Pablo Morales, after a relentless nine-day period that saw Camacho ride 18 winners from 54 mounts, with 15 seconds and five thirds.

That red-hot roll, which included a victory on Jan. 15 in the $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes on Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s 3-year-old filly Outfoxed, earned Camacho recognition as the Salt Rock Tavern Jockey of the Month.

Opportunities to ride for top south Florida-based trainers such as Mott and Chad Brown, as well as leading Oldsmar trainer Gerald Bennett, infuses Camacho with a level of confidence every jockey seeks. “When I see I’m riding for the top people, I feel powerful,” Camacho said.”I try to have the same confidence every time, but riding those kind of horses, everything is better.”

While Camacho often displays his emotions outwardly after a big win, he has worked hard to stay on an even keel from race-to-race, day-to-day. “He doesn’t let a tough loss ruin his day,” Moran said. “If something happens early, he comes right back and wins.”

“I try to be the same guy, no matter what,’ Camacho said. “It’s important to me to stay humble and to not change, win or lose.”

Camacho has lofty goals for 2022. Besides finishing atop the standings, he would like to ride 53 more winners here (ambitious, to be sure) and reach the 1,000 career mark.

But Camacho wouldn’t mind waiting until leaving Tampa Bay Downs to get his 1,000th victory if it means achieving his No. 1 objective: winning the Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 and getting a chance to ride that horse in the Kentucky Derby on May 1. “I did it two years ago with (owner) Victor Martinez’s horse (King Guillermo) and it put him in the Kentucky Derby,” Camacho said.

Poised to ride King Guillermo in the COVID-19-delayed 2020 Run for the Roses in September, Camacho was crushed when the horse was scratched two days before the race with a fever. Camacho would love another shot at the world’s most famous race.

If it happens, you can be sure Camacho will enter the Churchill Downs starting gate feeling very powerful.

Rowland takes another step. Apprentice jockey Maddie Rowland won her fifth race today, thereby reducing her apprentice weight allowance from 10 to 7 pounds. She will remain at that level until reaching 40 victories – at which point she drops to 5 pounds – or a year from today, should she not get to 40 by then.

Rowland, 18, won the second race aboard Ride Em, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned and trained by Juan Arriagada. The daughter of late steeplechase racing trainer Paul Rowland, who won her first race on Dec. 10 on Sancocho, is 5-for-21 here with three seconds and three thirds.

Around the oval. Alonso Quinonez rode back-to-back winners on today’s card. He captured the fifth race on Latin Nikkita, a 3-year-old filly owned by Ruth Casanova and trained by Rafael Schistl. Quinonez added the sixth aboard 2021 Minnesota Oaks winner Molly’s Angel, a 4-year-old filly owned by Peter D. Mattson and trained by Tim Padilla.


Alonso Quinonez

Thoroughbred racing continues Saturday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:13 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.