by Mike Henry

Two-time Breeders’ Cup participant Diamond Oops, a winner of consecutive Grade II races in 2020, heads a field of 11 older males entered in Saturday’s $100,000, 5-furlong Turf Dash Stakes on the grass at Tampa Bay Downs.

The 7-year-old gelding is cross-entered Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes on the dirt. Should trainer Patrick Biancone elect to keep Diamond Oops closer to home, a trio of stakes winners and seven others will seek to horn in on the lion’s share of the Turf Dash Stakes purse.

The Turf Dash, which is the 10th and final race on a card beginning at 12:13 p.m., is one of two $100,000 stakes Saturday. Its fillies and mares counterpart, the $100,000, 5-furlong Lightning City Stakes on the turf, will be run as the eighth race, with 6-year-old mare Payntdembluesaway the 5-2 morning-line choice in an overflow field of 14. Pablo Morales will ride Payntdembluesaway for trainer Jane Cibelli.

Diamond Oops, who is 8-for-23 lifetime with $1,364,483 in career earnings, was at the top of his game late in his 5-year-old season – winning the Grade II Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes presented by Sysco on the grass at Churchill Downs and the Grade II Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes on the dirt at Keeneland back-to-back – before a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on the dirt at Keeneland.

Others Turf Dash entrants with less-glittering records, yet determined nonetheless, include 6-year-old gelding Xy Speed, trained locally by Gerald Bennett and to be ridden by Samy Camacho; 6-year-old gelding Backtohisroots, trained by John P. Terranova, II, with Pablo Morales in the irons; and 5-year-old gelding Bad Beat Brian, trained by Michael Maker, with Daniel Centeno aboard.

The Lightning City favorite, Payntdembluesaway, has climbed the class ladder successfully since forging a six-race winning streak that began in September of 2019 and continued through January of 2021.

Now 8-for-14, the daughter of Paynter out of Denim n’ Motion, by Unbridled’s Song, finished fourth in last year’s Lightning City after prompting a blistering pace. She broke into the ranks of stakes winners on Dec. 4 at Gulfstream, capturing the 5-furlong Claiming Crown Distaff Dash Turf Stakes by a widening 4 lengths.

Payntdembluesaway and 6-year-old Florida-bred mare Ambassador Luna, who is on the also-eligible list but would draw into the race in the event of a scratch, are the only stakes winners in the Lightning City field. Ambassador Luna is trained by Ben Colebrook and would be ridden by Antonio Gallardo.

Other likely contenders include the Brian Lynch-trained 4-year-old filly Mamba Wamba, to be ridden by Julien Leparoux; Florida-bred 6-year-old mare Beantown Baby, conditioned by Arnaud Delacour, with Daniel Centeno aboard; and 4-year-old filly Beautiful Grace, trained by Gerald Bennett and to be ridden by Samy Camacho.    

Wales wins No. 500. His first victory of the meet in the fourth race aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Upper Speed Ds was also No. 500 in the career of Edinburgh, Scotland product Gary Wales. He rallied his mount from off the pace for a ¾-length victory from Purtiz in the mile-and-40-yard maiden claiming event. “It means a lot, because you don’t know if you’re ever going to get there,” Wales said.

gary wales

Gary Wales is recognized for earning career victory No. 500 on Upper Speed Ds in the 4th race (courtesy SV Photography)

The race also marked the first victory in 16 starts for Upper Speed Ds, bred, owned and trained by Arnoud Dobber. Ironically, Wales was aboard Upper Speed Ds when she was disqualified from an apparent victory here last season in April.

Wales, 36, won the 2019 meet title at Emerald Downs in Washington state with 99 winners. He credits his wife, Katie Mancini Wales, for her support throughout.

Granitz is Salt Rock Tavern Trainer of Month. Anthony Granitz, the Salt Rock Tavern Trainer of the Month, hopes history repeats itself Saturday when he sends out 4-year-old filly Covenant Lady in the $100,000, 5-furlong Lightning City Stakes on the turf.

Granitz won the Lightning City during the 2016-2017 Tampa Bay Downs meet with 3-year-old Triple Chelsea, who rallied from far back for a neck victory at odds of 9-1. Covenant Lady – owned by Granitz in partnership with B and B Stables and Michael Wern – enters the Lightning City Stakes with a 3-for-7 record.


Anthony Granitz

“We have a tough post (the outside No. 12 in the 12-horse field), but it might help us because she comes from off the pace and there is a lot of speed in the race,” Granitz said. “She ran well going short (on the turf) last year at Arlington and Indiana. Whoever gets the best trip is (probably) going to win.”

The Indiana-bred daughter of Temple City-More for Jill, by More Than Ready, was named by Granitz’s teenage daughter Eve, who attends Covenant Christian High School in Indianapolis. An accomplished equestrian and the top golfer on her high school team, Eve helped her dad cope on a recent visit to Oldsmar when he went almost two weeks without running a horse because races didn’t fill and others were pulled from the turf course due to wet grounds.

“She challenges me on the golf course, which is not a challenge because she always beats me,” Granitz said.

Lately, rival trainers have had their hands full beating Granitz on the racetrack. The Chicago product – who has saddled 1,349 career winners, with purse earnings in excess of $28-million – made up for lost time in a hurry after his “layoff,” sending out two winners and a runner-up from three starters on Jan. 28 and 29.

That ignited a streak in which Granitz won five races from nine starts, earning the Salt Rock Tavern Trainer of the Month nod.

“Things have been coming into place,” said Granitz, in his 16th season at Tampa Bay Downs. “I’ve had great support from my owners, who sent me horses that fit the program here, and my crew is doing a great job.” His team includes assistant trainer Juan Gongora, who has worked with Granitz for 30 years, and retired jockey Jesse Garcia, his main stable rider.

“Jesse’s experience and expertise working with my team have been extremely valuable,” Granitz said of the Oldsmar oval’s 1997-1998 leading jockey.

Granitz, who enjoyed an excellent spring and summer last year with a combined 43 winners at (since-shuttered) Arlington and Indiana Grand (now Horseshoe Indianapolis), spends the early part of his days watching workouts or reviewing videotapes to find horses he is interested in claiming. He is accompanied by his dog Zenyatta, an 11-year-old female Mastiff-German Shepherd mix. Later, he’ll review his findings with Gongora as they map out a plan to strengthen the stable.

“I’ve never seen so much claiming activity at Tampa as there has been this year. People are looking for horses that are ready to run,” said Granitz, who had lost six consecutive “shakes” for horses he put in a claim for prior to landing 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding Tripulante on Jan. 16. Tripulante came right back to win a starter/optional claiming 6-furlong sprint on Feb. 11.

“I look at their physical well-being, and I check the condition book to see if there is a race for them in a couple of weeks,” Granitz said. “We’ve been claiming some older, hard-knocking horses, looking for a (Tom) Brady-type.”

Granitz, who is 11-for-34 at the meet with seven seconds and five thirds, attributes part of his success to jockey Fernando De La Cruz, who has won 10 races from 21 Granitz-trained starters here, with five seconds and three thirds.  “He rode some for me in Indiana, and I gave him first call here. He seems to fit most of them well and puts them in good positions. And he rides the dirt and turf very well,” Granitz said.

“Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament upcoming. The 30th annual “Hearts Reaching Out” Golf Tournament, which raises funds for Tampa Bay Downs backside workers, will be played Monday, March 7 beginning at noon at Eagles Golf Club in Odessa.

The tournament format is a 4-person scramble. The entry fee is $110 a player, which includes range balls, on-course contests, a boxed lunch, on-course beverages and a goody bag.

Sponsorships and donations are also encouraged. “The “Triple Crown” Golf Sponsorship, which covers foursome golf packages, a recognition sign and company or individual name on every hole sign, costs $2,500. Individual hole sponsorships are available for $125.

Suitable donations include gift certificates, retail gift cards, golf-themed and racing-themed baskets, etc. Monetary donations may be mailed to RTCA/Tampa Bay Downs, Post Office Box 2211, Oldsmar, Fla., with a check payable to Race Track Chaplaincy of America.

Backside workers are the lifeblood of every Thoroughbred racetrack, and the “Hearts Reaching Out” event helps to meet the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of these unsung participants. For details or to enter, call Chaplain Pete Crisswell at (304) 433-6808 or Dr. Bill Owens at (813) 240-1340.

Around the oval. Leading jockey Samy Camacho rode two winners today. Camacho captured the fifth race on the turf with D’craziness, a 9-year-old Florida-bred horse owned by Averill Racing and trained by Gerald Bennett. Camacho added the eighth on Kiger, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Roger B. Sterling and trained by Renaldo Richards.

Kiger was claimed from the race for $6,250 by trainer Steven Cahill for new owners Steve Zeehandelar and Thomas Sutherland.

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.