by Mike Henry

When people talk about the history of Thoroughbred breeding and racing in Florida, Live Oak Stud is usually part of the conversation.

Charlotte Weber’s 4,500-acre Ocala showpiece will be well-represented as a breeder and owner in Sunday’s 19th annual Florida Cup at Tampa Bay Downs with three homebred runners as it seeks to extend its dominance in the competition for registered Florida-breds.

Six $110,000 stakes races comprise the Florida Cup, which is part of a 12-race card set to begin at 12:15 p.m. The Florida Cup schedule is as follows:

  • 6th race – Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, 3-year-olds, 7 furlongs, main track
  • 7th race – Equistaff Sophomore Turf, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16-mile, turf course
  • 8th race – Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, 3-year-old fillies, 7 furlongs, main track
  • 9th race – Grey Goose Turf Classic, 4-years-old-and-upward, 1 1/8-mile, turf course
  • 10th race – Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward, 1 1/16-mile, turf course
  • 11th race – NYRABETS Sprint, 4-years-old-and-upward, 6 furlongs, main track

Entering Sunday’s event, Live Oak Stud is tied with its Marion County neighbor, Glen Hill Farm, for the most Florida Cup victories as breeders, with nine, and (under its Live Oak Plantation banner) for the most victories as owners, with eight.

Both Live Oak and Glen Hill won a Florida Cup race in 2021 with homebreds, with Live Oak capturing the NYRABETS Sprint with homebred Tap It to Win and Glen Hill taking the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf with Summering.

Glen Hill is not represented in this year’s Florida Cup. All of the Live Oak entrants are trained by Mark Casse.

Tap It to Win, a 5-year-old ridgling who won last year’s 6-furlong NYRABETS Sprint in an excellent time of 1:09.43, returns to defend against eight rivals. He won the Grade III Seagram Cup Stakes last summer at Woodbine in Toronto. Antonio Gallardo will ride Tap It to Win for the first time since last spring’s success.

Live Oak’s other Florida Cup contenders are multiple graded-stakes winning 4-year-old filly Our Flash Drive in the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf and 3-year-old colt Tapthespeedofsound in the Equistaff Sophomore Turf. Gallardo rides Our Flash Drive and Edwin Gonzalez is on Tapthespeedofsound.

Casse, a member of both the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame as a conditioner, is tied with fellow U.S. Hall of Famer Bill Mott and Edward Plesa, Jr., for second among trainers all-time with six Florida Cup victories. The leader with eight is Tom Proctor, who is not represented Sunday.

Mott will send out his three-time stakes-winning 3-year-old filly Outfoxed in the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies on Sunday, while Plesa goes for No. 7 with King Cab, a 3-year-old gelding co-owned by his wife Laurie Plesa, in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore.

Back for a moment to the owner standings, where Vegso Racing Stable is positioned to break a tie for third place with Averill Racing (and partners). Both have four Florida Cup victories apiece after last year’s Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies victory by Averill Racing and ATM Racing’s R Adios Jersey.

Vegso Racing Stable, author-publisher Peter Vegso’s enterprise, will send out its homebred 4-year-old colt Officiating in the NYRABETS Sprint. He is trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., and will be ridden by Gonzalez.

Daniel Centeno rode two Florida Cup winners in 2021 – Foreman in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore and Me and Mr. C in the Grey Goose Turf Classic – to raise his victory total in the series to 10, three more than Ronnie Allen, Jr., who has not ridden since October after incurring multiple injuries in a fall at Presque Isle Downs.

It is no surprise, then, that Centeno has three mounts in Sunday’s event. He is named to ride 3-year-old gelding Magical Warrior in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, 3-year-old colt C My Meister in the Equistaff Sophomore Turf and 6-year-old horse Max K. O. in the Grey Goose Turf Classic.

Trailing Centeno and Allen in the Florida Cup jockey standings are Gallardo and Elvis Trujillo (now a trainer in Maryland) with six apiece. In addition to riding Tap It to Win and Our Flash Drive, Gallardo is named on 3-year-old gelding Dean Delivers for breeder-owner Stonehedge, LLC and trainer Michael Yates in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore.

Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano has five Florida Cup winners, with a record four coming in the 2018 event. He is competing this year and is named to ride in all six races, starting with 3-year-old colt Lightening Larry in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore.

Castellano’s subsequent assignments are on 3-year-old colt Treasure King in the Equistaff Sophomore Turf; Outfoxed in the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies; 5-year-old horse Shamrocket in the Grey Goose Turf Classic; 6-year-old mare Lovely Luvy in the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf; and 7-year-old gelding Pudding in the NYRABETS Sprint.

They want to help. A round table of Thoroughbred insiders will discuss their selections for the Florida Cup stakes races beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

The panel for the “Florida Cup Preview Show” will consist of moderator Jason Beem, the track announcer; Tampa Bay Downs handicapper-analyst Ren Carothers; the Oldsmar oval’s Spanish-language race analyst Luis Ocasio; and public handicapper-horseplayer Barry “Sniper” Spears.

The show will be available in real time on all ADW (advance-deposit wagering) sites, as well as the track’s YouTube, Twitter and Facebook Live feeds. It will also be broadcast live on the track’s closed-circuit feed. Gates open at 10:30 a.m.

To access the “Florida Cup Preview Show” from a remote location, click the following link:

Florida Cup Stakes Preview

Around the oval. In the fourth and final leg of the Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series for horses 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2021-22, contested as the 10th race, 5-year-old horse Initforthelove rallied through the stretch to post a decisive 2 ¼-length victory from Motataabeq.

It was the fourth career victory for Initforthelove, a homebred bred in Florida by Arboritanza Racing, LLC and owned by Arboritanza Racing and Frank Nanna. Initforthelove paid $36.20 after completing the mile-and-three-eighths distance in a time of 2:18.35.

Jermaine Bridgmohan rode the winner, who is trained by Joseph Arboritanza. Isaias Dream finished third.

In the Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test, run as the ninth race, 6-year-old mare She Fled the Scene took control at the top of the stretch and held off challenges from runner-up Take to the Skies and favorite Lady Dominance for her fourth career victory.

Angel Moreno rode She Fled the Scene, who is owned by Kathleen O’Connell Racing Stable and trained by O’Connell. Her time for the mile-and-three-eighths distance was 2:21.23. She paid $10.20 to win.

Isaac Castillo and Jose Ferrer each rode two winners today. Castillo won the second race on Hard Ten, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Elena Racing and trained by Jorge Delgado. Castillo added the sixth, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, aboard 3-year-old colt Benevengo for owner Wasabi Ventures Stables and trainer Jesse Cruz.

Ferrer won the fifth race on Urban Warrior, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Endsley Oaks Farm and trained by Rafael Schistl. Urban Warrior was claimed from the race for $8,000 by owner-trainer Elis Roque.

Ferrer added the seventh with Mon Paradis, a 4-year-old filly owned by Six K’s Training and Sales and trained by S. M. Kintz.

Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule through May 7, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 17, when the track is closed, and May 1, when the Thoroughbred action is limited to simulcasting.

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.