GET SMOKIN TO DEFEND TITLE; HOW GOOD IS BLEECKER STREET?

by Mike Henry

A full field of 12 males, headed by defending champion Get Smokin, are expected to compete in Saturday’s Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, while 10 fillies and mares, including Grade I winner Lady Speightspeare, are entered in the Grade III, $175,000 Endeavour. Both races will be contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf course.

The Endeavour is the sixth race on a 10-race card on Tampa Bay Downs’s “Turf Champions Day.” The Tampa Bay Stakes is the eighth race. There are 13 horses entered in the Tampa Bay Stakes and only 12 are permitted to run, so the connections of Carpenters Call would need a late scratch to compete.

The 5-year-old gelding Get Smokin will be making his first start since June. Now trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Mark Casse, Get Smokin, who will be ridden by Antonio Gallardo, won the Grade II Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont as a 3-year-old. Get Smokin will break from the No. 7 post.

South Florida-based trainer Chad Brown will be sending two horses for the Tampa Bay Stakes in 5-year-old gelding L’Imperator and 8-year-old gelding Devamani. Samy Camacho is named to ride L’Imperator, while Pablo Morales will be aboard Devamani.

Tampa Bay Downs trainer Arnaud Delacour also has two entrants: 6-year-old horse Eons, who was second to Get Smokin last year, and 6-year-old gelding Talk Or Listen, last year’s fourth-place finisher.

Brown, who is bidding for his first Tampa Bay Stakes trophy, has two entrants in search of his fourth Endeavour victory. Both of his 4-year-old fillies, Bleecker Street and In Italian, are owned by Peter M. Brant, with Bleecker Street a perfect 3-for-3 and In Italian 2-for-3 with a second. Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr., rides Bleecker Street and Camacho is on In Italian.

They could have their hands full with 4-year-old Lady Speightspeare, who is 4-for-5 for trainer Roger Attfield, including the Grade I Natalma at Woodbine as a 2-year-old. Her regular rider, Emma-Jayne Wilson, again has the assignment.

Trainer H. Graham Motion will bid for his third Endeavour victory with 4-year-old Oyster Box, who will be ridden by Gallardo. She was third in last year’s Florida Oaks at the Oldsmar oval.

“Turf Champions Day” kicks off the track’s seven-event graded-stakes schedule, which continues on Feb. 12 with the 42nd running of the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race for 3-year-old Triple Crown hopefuls.

The Sam F. Davis is the centerpiece of a four-stakes Festival Preview Day card that includes the mile-and-40-yard, $150,000 Suncoast Stakes, a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points race for 3-year-old fillies; the 6-furlong, $100,000 Pelican Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward; and the $50,000, 6-furlong Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward.

For now, though, the focus is squarely on Saturday’s two turf events, which stand as the most lucrative turf stakes events anywhere in the country that day.

“Live It Up Challenge” starts Feb. 12. The “Live It Up Challenge” Handicapping Contest begins Saturday, Feb. 12 – Festival Preview Day – with a rules change designed to place even more emphasis on handicapping skill.

The free-to-enter online competition will require players to select a horse in two of each day’s three “Challenge Races,” which will be selected by contest officials. In previous years, players selected a horse in one of two “Challenge Races.”

All wagers are mythical. Scores, or bankrolls, will be determined on the basis of $2 mythical win-place-show wagers on each participant’s selections. Any race when a player’s choice finishes off-the-board, or the player does not make a selection for any reason, results in the loss of a ‘lifeline.” Players losing all their lifelines are eliminated from further participation, although they are still eligible for the $500 bonus prize for overall most winners.

All entrants begin the contest with one free lifeline. Players may purchase eight additional lifelines for $5 each upon signup, eight more on Feb. 25 for $10 each and four more on March 11 for $25 each.

The contest runs through March 27, which is Florida Cup Day, enhancing the potential for a dramatic finish. Players must register by 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 12. To do so, go to www.liveitupchallenge.com on the Internet.

The first-place winner will receive two seats for the 2023 High Rollers Handicapping Contest at Tampa Bay Downs next January (a $2,000 value). The second-through-fourth-place finishers will receive one seat apiece, a $1,000 equivalency.

The player selecting the most winners throughout the contest’s duration, as mentioned, receives $500.

For additional details, contact Margo Flynn, the track’s Vice President of Marketing & Publicity, at (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.

Around the oval. Jesus Castanon rode two winners today. He was aboard 3-year-old filly Starship Precious in the first race for owner Starship Stables and trainer M. Anthony Ferraro. Castanon added the seventh race on the turf with Beachside Bunny, a 4-year-old filly owned by John C. Terlep and trained by Jordan Blair.

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.