FIRST TRICKLE OF DEPARTURES COULD OPEN DOORS; TRACK CLOSED SUNDAY

by Mike Henry

The departures of jockeys Daniel Centeno, who rode his final card of the meet today before heading to Laurel Park in Maryland, and Antonio Gallardo, who began riding at Woodbine in Toronto today, remind Tampa Bay Downs fans how quickly time passes.

Centeno, a six-time Oldsmar riding champion, departs in fourth place with 42 victories after riding two winners (more below). Gallardo, a five-time champ, is in seventh place with 35 victories.

Two-time leading jockey Jesus Castanon left two weeks ago for Keeneland, leaving Samy Camacho as the only Tampa Bay Downs riding champ still in attendance (well, except for trainer Benny Feliciano, the 1980-1981 top jockey who saddled the winner of today’s first race, 10-year-old Florida-bred gelding Mr Lightning Boy).

While Camacho continues his pursuit of a third crown in the last four seasons (he leads Pablo Morales 81-68 through today’s action), the farewells-until-fall of Centeno and Gallardo open windows of opportunity for less-heralded jockeys throughout the May 7 Kentucky Derby card that will send everybody packing.

Time, that most formidable of opponents, will tell who is best prepared and talented to take advantage.

Camacho, Morales and Centeno each rode two winners today. In addition to winning on Mr Lightning Boy, Camacho won the seventh race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, aboard Sassy Beast, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Frank Carl Calabrese and trained by Angel M. Rodriguez.

Morales won the fourth on Lovin Livin, a 4-year-old filly owned by Chuncho Bravo Stable & Farm, LLC and trained by Javier E. Morzan. Morales added the sixth race on the turf on Influencing, a 3-year-old filly bred and owned by Glen Hill Farm and trained by Tom Proctor.

Centeno won the second race aboard 5-year-old sprinter Jeopardy James in near-track record time of 1:08.95 for 6 furlongs. Owned by Lael Stables and trained by Arnaud Delacour, Jeopardy James was claimed from the race for $25,000 by trainer Diane Morici for new owner Mastic Beach Racing. Centeno added the 10th and final race on the turf on Mr. Sarcastic, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Terrence Solomon and trained by Anthony Granitz.

That was one of two victories for Granitz, who won the eighth race on the turf with 7-year-old Florida-bred mare Sweet Moochie, owned by Team Grande Racing and ridden by Fernando De La Cruz. Sweet Moochie was claimed for $10,000 by trainer Lisa Allen for new owner Algarcon Stables.

Tampa Bay Downs is closed Sunday for Easter. Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. Plans are underway for a huge celebration on May 7, with the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs following the local card beginning at noon.

Box seats and reserved seating are sold out, but plenty of general admission tickets remain at $10 each. The traditional Kentucky Derby drink, a mint julep, will be on sale in official souvenir glasses listing each winner since 1875. The glasses will also be on sale in the Gift Shop, sans beverage.

Tampa Bay Downs will have wagering machines outside the main entrance to the Grandstand for fans unable to attend the races, but still able to make it here to secure a ticket on the most exciting two minutes in sports.

The May 7 card will be the final one of the 2021-2022 meet, excepting the June 30 program, which is also the first day of the annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing.