Bright sunshine, temperatures in the mid-70s and light-to-moderate breezes greeted horsemen, horsewomen and their charges to the 19th annual Florida Cup, a collection of six $110,000 stakes races for registered Florida-breds at Tampa Bay Downs.
While Treasure King (Equistaff Sophomore Turf) and Shifty She (Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf) lived up to their status as betting favorites, the other races produced longer shots of varying degrees in one of the most wide-open Florida Cup cards in the event’s history.
Here, without further ado, is a race-by-race recap of today’s action.
$110,000 OCALA BREEDERS’ SALES SOPHOMORE
The connections of King Cab didn’t think it would be this easy. Not with such proven entities in the field as stakes winners Cattin and Lightening Larry and Grade III-placed Dean Delivers.
But after breaking on top from the gate and getting King Cab to relax, jockey Emisael Jaramillo had no worries to the finish line. The Edward Plesa, Jr.-trained gelding kept striding out to the wire, winning by 4 ¾ lengths from Lightening Larry in 1:22.25 for the seven furlongs, .12 seconds off the stakes record. It was King Cab’s first stakes triumph.
King Cab and jockey Emisael Jaramillo run the competition off their feet in the Ocala Breeders' Sales Sophomore (courtesy SV Photography)
“This horse is very, very fast,” said Jaramillo, who rode him for the first time. “Six furlongs, seven, he’s very strong. When I got to the 3/8-mile pole, I knew it was over. He’s so easy to ride.”
King Cab was bred in partnership by Ocala Stud and Edward Wiest and William J. Terrill and is owned by David Melin, Leon Ellman and Laurie Plesa, the trainer’s wife. The victory is the seventh in Florida Cup competition for Plesa, second all-time, and his record fourth in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore.
King Cab paid $9.60 to win as the third wagering choice in the six-horse field after improving to 3-for-5. Cattin, who won the Inaugural Stakes here on Dec. 4, finished third, a half-length behind Lightening Larry.
“He’s an exceptionally talented horse who does things his way,” trainer Plesa said of the winner. “We tried him a distance of ground last time just to see if we could kind of get him to rate a little bit. That didn’t work, so I’m not going to do anything to mess him up. I’m just going to let him do what he likes to do.
“He didn’t switch leads down the lane, but it didn’t hinder him. In the mornings he does, but in the afternoons. … two races ago he did switch leads, but very late. Does it make any difference? Not all horses switch leads. That’s the only critique I can say about him. But when he wins like that, it doesn’t make any difference.”
The winner’s share of $70,000 raised King Cab’s career earnings to $141,940.
$110,000 EQUISTAFF SOPHOMORE TURF
Maturity. That is one of the trademarks of 3-year-old colt Treasure King, who wore down pace-setter Tapthespeedofsound in late stretch under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano for a ¾-length victory in only his second career start.
Treasure King, now 2-for-2, posted a time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth on the firm turf course of 1:42.19, less than a second off the stakes record. Hr paid $4.40 to win as the heavy favorite. Merlin finished third.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher conditions Treasure King.
Treasure King impressed Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano in just his second career start, the Equistaff Sophomore Turf (courtesy SV Photography)
I really like this horse,” Castellano said. “He’s by a Galileo horse (Treasure Beach), so I thought he would like the turf. Everything he did, he did the right way. I had a lot of confidence to win the race.”
Maybe so, but Live Oak Plantation homebred Tapthespeedofsound was dogged in defeat, putting forth a solid effort throughout under jockey Edwin Gonzalez.
Treasure King was bred by Patricia Generazio and is owned by Mathis Stable. The colt is out of Wave of Glory, by Midshipman.
Mark Casse was pleased with runner-up Tapthespeedofsound’s performance. The colt is a Live Oak Plantation homebred by Tapit out of Onepointhreekarats.
“He ran well, and then Todd’s horse came and beat us at the end,” Casse said. “Our horse fought back. This was only his third start, and we hope he has a big future.”
But it was Treasure King who delivered best on pre-race expectations. “He showed good promise at Gulfstream, and he impressed us today,” said Pletcher assistant Sophie Green. “He looked like a horse with promise in his maiden win, so we were quite hopeful.”
$110,000 STONEHEDGE FARM SOUTH SOPHOMORE FILLIES
Midnight Stroll’s maiden victory on Feb. 26 at Tampa Bay Downs stamped her as a filly with plenty of promise. Her potential seems even greater after her gate-to-wire victory in the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies under jockey Pablo Morales.
Never threatened at any point of the 7-furlong race, Midnight Stroll posted a 3 ¼-length victory from Rapturous, with betting favorite Outfoxed finishing a distant third. The winner paid $16.80 after completing the distancen in 1:23.12, .37 seconds off the stakes record.
Midnight Stroll, Pablo Morales up, makes her fans croon like the great Patsy Cline in Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies (courtesy SV Photography)
A daughter of Not This Time out of Midnight Magic, by Midnight Lute, Midnight Stroll was bred by Dr. Carolin Von Rosenberg DVM and is owned by Gatsas Stables, R. A. Hill Stable and Steven Schoenfeld. John P. Terranova, II is the winning trainer.
Midnight Stroll improved to 2-for-4 with the victory.
“We got her started (last summer) at Saratoga and it took a while to get her going,” Terranova said. “So we kind of regrouped and brought her down here and stretched her out (to a mile-and-40-yards) to break her maiden. We had this race in mind even before then. She has shown a lot of quality and we really like her.
“Pablo knows her well. He’s been breezing her in the mornings and I told him if she breaks well, go on with it.”
Morales sees an excellent future for Midnight Stroll. “She does it so effortlessly – every time I’ve been on her, since this meet started, she has shown so much class,” he said. “We loved her the day of her maiden win, but after that she got even better. She came in real sharp today and when the gate opened, she was gone. She is a very classy horse.”
$110,000 GREY GOOSE TURF CLASSIC
When 5-year-old gelding Drama Chorus broke on top and was able to dictate the fractions in the mile-and-an-eighth race, his connections realized it was a dream scenario.
The 11-1 shot had enough left through the stretch to hold off a determined rally from Max K. O. by a neck, earning Drama Chorus his first career stakes victory. Lure Him In finished third and the heavy favorite, Shamrocket, was a non-threatening fourth.
“It’s great. Walk the dog early, then he outran some good horses,” said winning trainer Tim Padilla. “It was perfect. He finished strong and he battled back when (Max K. O.) came to him.”
Drama Chorus (inside) and jockey Alonso Quinonez hold off Max K. O. in the Grey Goose Turf Classic (courtesy SV Photography)
Drama Chorus, now 5-for-21 with five seconds, is a homebred racing for breeder-owner Peter D. Mattson. He is a son of Big Drama out of Missmollybygolly, by Scat Daddy. Padilla’s go-to rider, Alonso Quinonez, was aboard, and the jockey’s winning smile afterward was probably there at several points of the race as the others waited to make their moves, only to succumb to the distance and the determination of the winner.
Drama Chorus paid $25 to win. His time was 1:48.58.
“The way he ran last time (second to Chez Pierre in a 1-mile turf allowance here on March 9), I think he got beat by a very nice horse,” Quinonez said. “I was just hoping for a nice clean break, and when (Freedom Matters) didn’t break as well as I thought he might, the rest was history. The fractions were perfect and I had a lot of horse turning for home.”
Quinonez was confident Drama Chorus could hold off Max K. O.’s charge from the outside. “He (Max K. O.) had to work to get to where I was, and I hadn’t moved yet,” He said.
$110,000 PLEASANT ACRES STALLIONS DISTAFF TURF
With almost 1,600 career victories, former Tampa Bay Downs jockey Edwin Gonzalez is putting together an excellent career.
And with a few more horses to ride such as 6-year-old mare Shifty She, it probably won’t be long before Gonzalez’s reputation takes off like the winner of the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf did through the stretch.
Under a confident ride from Edwin Gonzalez, Shifty She was much too much for her foes in the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf (courtesy SV Photography)
The lightly-raced daughter of Gone Astray-Perilous Hope, by Strong Hope, improved to 7-for-13, easily turning back a stretch bid from runner-up Our Flash Drive and third-place finisher Mona Stella. Bettors caught on beforehand, reducing Shifty She’s odds to 3-5 at post time.
Shifty She finished the mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass in 1:41.43, about a second off the stakes record. She is trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr.
Chris Pallas bred Shifty She in partnership with George Klein. Pallas and Harvey Rothenberg are co-owners under their Pedigree Partners, LLC banner.
The victory was the fourth in stakes company for Shifty She, who won the Grade III Noble Damsel Stakes last fall at Belmont under Gonzalez and finished second and third in a pair of Grade III events at Gulfstream Park with Gonzalez aboard before coming to Oldsmar.
“She is a very nice (mare). She always breaks running, and when she breaks I let her do what she wants to be comfortable,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t want to be fighting her because I know wherever I put her, she is going to give me her best.”
Gonzalez and Shifty She controlled the pace throughout, and when he asked her to guarantee the victory in the stretch, she responded.
"She won wire-to-wire and was in front the whole way, so it was a nice performance,” Joseph said. “Before the owners sent her to us she had an issue and they gave her the time off she needed. It was almost two years. She came to us a good filly, and since she's been with us we've just tried to do as good of a job as the previous trainer. She's just class.”
Joseph said he hopes to try Shifty She, a career earner of $453,495, in Grade I company, perhaps in the Grade I Longines Just a Game on June 11 at Belmont. “That was the idea, to run in this race and hopefully, cut her back to the one-turn mile and see if we can get a Grade 1 placing in her and hopefully, win a Grade 1 with her,” the conditioner said.
$110,000 NYRABETS SPRINT
Co-owner and trainer Elizabeth L. Dobles claimed Pudding last July for $25,000 from an allowance/optional claiming victory at Gulfstream Park. So it was hard to express her pride in the 7-year-old gelding after his thrilling victory from last year’s NYRABETS Sprint winner Tap It to Win in today’s Florida Cup finale.
“He’s a dream to train. He’s one of my favorites,” Dobles said after Pudding won his first career stakes under jockey Javier Castellano. “I guess almost every horse I train turns out to be one of my favorites, but he is definitely one of my heart horses.”
Pudding, inside, showed jockey Javier Castellano and co-owner and trainer Elizabeth L. Dobles the kind of heart that bolsters theirs in the NYRABETS Sprint (courtesy SV Photography)
Pudding sped the 6-furlong distance in 1:09.01, only .34 seconds off It’s Me Mom’s stakes and track record. Cajun Casanova finished third in the six-horse field. Pudding paid $9.60 to win as the third choice in the wagering.
A son of Two Step Salsa out of Jozi’s Turn, by Johannesburg, Pudding is owned by Dobles in partnership with John Guarnere’s Imaginary Stables. He was bred by JSL Thoroughbreds. He improved to 9-for-33 with the victory, with career earnings of $323,840.
Three horses were scratched from the race, and the defection of Gatsby gave Castellano an opportunity to change strategy and put Pudding on the lead early. “Thank God, Elizabeth gave me the green light to make my own decision. Sometimes it doesn’t work and sometimes it does, but it did this time. This horse never gives up.”
Indeed, 5-year-old Tap It to Win appeared to stick his head in front in deep stretch, but his older rival fought back gamely to send his backers into tapioca heaven.