ALLEN ENCOURAGED BY RETURN; DE LA CRUZ RIDES THREE WINNERS

by Mike Henry

More than 6 months had passed since Ronnie Allen, Jr., rode his previous race before entering the starting gate aboard Lady in Heels in today’s sixth.

And it had been almost 51 weeks since the four-time Tampa Bay Downs jockey champion had competed at the Oldsmar oval. So, even with 29,484 races under his belt, Allen experienced a slight case of nerves in his comeback race from multiple injuries incurred in a freak post-race accident on Oct. 19 at Presque Isle Downs.

“You have to be a little bit nervous when you’re coming back like that off an injury,” he said.

The butterflies vanished when Lady in Heels, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly trained by Allen’s fiancée, Maria Bowersock, broke on top in the 6 ½-furlong race for $20,000 sophomore claiming fillies. Although she tired to finish fifth of seven (Murumbi won, Fernando De La Cruz’s third victory today in the saddle), Allen felt affirmation he is on the right track in his recovery.

“As soon as those gates opened, I was taking care of business,” said Allen, who turns 58 Sunday. “When we broke I didn’t feel too much discomfort, and I felt good all the way around. I got a little tired, but I was more fit than I thought.”

Allen broke five ribs, suffered a collapsed lung, dislocated his clavicle joint and tore ligaments in his left shoulder last fall when his mount fell unexpectedly while galloping out after a third-place finish.

Allen finished fourth in today’s ninth race on the turf on Bowersock’s 3-year-old filly Libertalia (Judge Judith won under Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr.). Allen looks to continue his comeback Wednesday, when he is named on two horses.

Upon the conclusion of racing here on May 7, Allen and Bowersock will return to Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., for the meet beginning May 16.

“I’m happy to be back and trying to get in the groove again,” Allen said. “I heard a couple of my fans out there hollering for me, so that was a good feeling.”

Not too early to make Kentucky Derby plans. On May 7, Tampa Bay Downs will conclude its 2021-2022 meeting proper with a full card of Thoroughbred racing beginning at noon. The Oldsmar oval will also be the Tampa Bay area’s headquarters for the celebration of the 148th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs.

Without question, the weekend will be one to remember. It starts Friday, May 6 with a full day of racing here, immediately followed by the simulcast of the $1.25-million Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. Tampa Bay Downs will simulcast the entire Churchill Downs card that day, as always, including six other graded stakes besides the Oaks.

All that is merely an appetizer for the main event the following day, when the eyes of the international sporting community will be riveted on the $3-million Run for the Roses. A field of 20 3-year-olds is expected. The Kentucky Derby is one of eight stakes on the card, seven graded, a collection of equine excellence matched annually only by the Breeders’ Cup.

Post time for the first race both days at Churchill is 10:30 a.m., and the gates here will open at 10 a.m. to permit fans an opportunity to wager on every race. Patrons will be able to wager on the Kentucky Derby on Friday. On Saturday, “walk-up” wagering will be available outside the main Tampa Bay Downs Grandstand entrance for bettors unable to stay for the action.

Admission is $3 on May 6 and $10 on May 7. Free admission will be available in the Backyard Picnic Area; wagering terminals and restrooms will be available, but the outdoor concession stands will be closed. However, on May 7, food trucks will be positioned on the Grandstand near the paddock, including one selling donuts.

The Kentucky Derby’s traditional drink, the mint julep, will be on sale May 7 for $9 in the official souvenir glass. Mint julep glasses and other Kentucky Derby merchandise will be on sale throughout in the Gift Shop.

Around the oval. As mentioned above, Fernando De La Cruz rode three winners. He tallied in the third race on the turf on Zoomed In, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Greg Tatum Racing and trained by Arnaud Delacour. De La Cruz won the fifth race on the turf when apparent winner Dream Liner was disqualified for interference, elevating De La Cruz’s 8-year-old gelding Outrageous Bet to victory. That one is owned by Douglas O’Donnell and trained by Bobby Raymond.

Murumbi, De La Cruz’s third winner, is owned by Livin The Dream Racing Stable and trained by Gerald Bennett.

Trainer Raymond also won the fourth race with 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Lyrical, owned by Pedro Posadas and ridden by Augusto Marin. Lyrical was claimed from the victory for $8,000 by trainer Lynn Rarick for new owner ABE Racing.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 7, with the exception of Sunday, May 1, when the Thoroughbred action is limited to simulcasting..

The 2021-2022 meet officially concludes on Thursday, June 30, which is also the first day of the annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing.

Otherwise, the track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.