Apprentice jockey Maddie Rowland finished her Oldsmar season with a flourish, riding four winners to finish in ninth place in the standings with 34 victories. Rowland is headed from here to Monmouth Park.
The 18-year-old won the first race on the turf on Kizzy, a 5-year-old mare owned by Amparo E. Lizardi and trained by Monica McGoey. Rowland dead-heated for the victory in the second on Unified Ride, a 3-year-old filly owned by Robert Tait, Sr., Robert Tait, Jr., and Steve Trizis and trained by Mike Dini.
The other first-place finisher in the second was Makin It Look Easy, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Windylea Farm, LLC, trained by Kathleen O’Connell and ridden by Skyler Spanabel.
Rowland added the seventh, the Lambholm South Race of the Week on the turf, with Center Stage, a 3-year-old filly bred and owned by Lantern Hill Farm, LLC and trained by Arnaud Delacour. She capped her huge day by winning the ninth race on the turf on Mr. Sarcastic with a relentless rally. The 6-year-old gelding is owned by Terrence Solomon and trained by Anthony Granitz.
You know you’re a horse racing fan when. …
- You still get the catch in your throat as they load for the Derby. Or an $8,000 claiming race.
- You don’t mind the smell of manure when you’re at the track.
- Your horse gets blocked in the stretch to blow your exacta, but all is not lost because other bettors might miss the trouble line next time.
- You miss your dad telling you how he had Canonero II in 1971, since he figured it was more important he’d gone a mile-and-a-quarter than where he did it.
- You believe a wholesome teenager from Nowhereville, really, can make it big – really big – because they’ve loved horses their whole life and understand how each one needs a little something different from a rider.
- You remember how Stevie Cauthen’s voice hadn’t changed when he did the interview with Howard Cosell before he won the 1978 Derby with veteran polish on Affirmed.
- You chill out in the long lines on Derby Day because you want the newcomers to love the experience the way you did (the first time).
- You are grateful for all the jockeys who were seriously hurt but survived. And maybe thrived.
- You still get goose bumps when you watch the video of Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy, waving her arms exultantly in the 1973 Belmont haze.
- You see Maddie Rowland is 5-2 in the ninth on Mr. Sarcastic, and you think how all the wise guys who don’t like apprentice jockeys have finally come around, and you laugh. ‘Cause you’re one too.
- You miss “7-6” being posted as the first two finishers and your dad saying “That’s the spirit.”
- You really, really enjoy the way so many people were hugging each other in appreciation on the final day of another successful (by most metrics) season.
Endsley Oaks is Leading Owner. Bob and Jill Jones, the owners of Endsley Oaks Farm, had high expectations for the 2021-2022 Tampa Bay Downs meet after finishing sixth in last season’s standings with nine winners.
Although the couple couldn’t have predicted capturing a Leading Owner title, they were confident their partnership with trainer Rafael Schistl would make them a force to be reckoned with.
Endsley Oaks Farm owners Bob and Jill Jones, center, along with family and friends, surround trainer Rafael Schistl during the Leading Owner ceremony. Track Vice President & General Manager Peter Berube, far right, is the presenter (courtesy SV Photography)
“We’ve raised a lot of homebreds over the years, and it’s sort of like being a parent – you think all your kids should go to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology),” Jill Jones said. “Rafael explained that our horses aren’t all stakes horses, they aren’t all allowance horses and they aren’t all $25,000 claimers.
“He started putting our horses where they could win, and when we sat down with him to go over the (Tampa Bay Downs) condition book, he said ‘This is where we’re going to put them,’ ” she said.
The title becomes official after the track’s June 30 Summer Festival of Racing card, which marks the official end of the meet while leading into the July 1 start of the 2022-2023 meet. Endsley Oaks has 24 victories, two more than owner-trainer Juan Arriagada. If Arriagada takes a notion to send horses from his Delaware Park base for the June 30 card, and wins two or three races, the result could change.
However, it is also worth noting that Endsley Oaks Farm is based in nearby Brooksville, Fla., and also has the option to enter horses here on June 30, which they plan to do if the title is still undecided.
“We are thrilled and honored,” Jill Jones said. “We love Tampa Bay Downs and are thankful for the opportunity to compete.”
Endsley Oaks Farm’s success was bolstered by homebred 4-year-old gelding Jack Rabbit Quick, a son of the Joneses’ 11-year-old homebred sire Pharaoh Bob, who has won three races at the meet. The farm’s 7-year-old mare Luna Queen and 4-year-old gelding Shaldag also won three races apiece.
Two-race winners included 7-year-old gelding Rattlesnake Ridge; 5-year-old mare Take to the Skies; 5-year-old gelding Pharaoh Fancy Pant; 4-year-old filly Tiz Lottie; and 6-year-old mare Twisted Treasure.
Schistl, who is third in the Tampa Bay Downs trainer standings with 26 winners, joined Endsley Oaks three years ago as an exercise rider after competing as a jockey from 2005-2019 in numerous countries, winning three Derbies in Norway and three more combined in Denmark and Sweden. The Itajai, Brazil product echoes the couple’s belief that their relationship has been beneficial to the owners, their trainer and most importantly, their horses.
“They have helped me with a lot of things and gave me an opportunity to learn and become somebody as a trainer,” Schistl said. “I learned a lot from them about the condition book – I probably missed a race or two last year because I didn’t see something. I’m happy for them because they are good people who love horses and racing, and I’m sure they are happy.”
Endsley Oaks is located about 50 miles from Tampa Bay Downs, and the Joneses have raced here for about 12 years. They currently have close to 90 horses spread between the racetrack, an 80-acre broodmare farm and a nearby 150-acre training facility. They also raise about 500 cattle.
Endsley Oaks employs a horse exerciser machine, an equine swimming pool and two tracks – a 3/8-mile training track and a mile-and-a-quarter, European-style dirt gallop – to keep horses fit and race-ready.
Bob Jones owns Composite Motors, Inc., an electronics manufacturing company, and Jill is a corporate and patent attorney.
Schistl has already begun shipping some of their horses to Monmouth Park in New Jersey, where they won six races last year with 17 additional in-the-money finishes. Jill Jones said the couple has started buying more yearlings in Ocala and Keeneland to break and prepare for the races; some who are now 2-year-olds could debut later this year at Monmouth.
“We’ve put our faith in Rafael. He pays more attention to detail than anyone I know and probably works 70 hours a week,” Jill Jones said. “We work very well together and are not afraid to invest in good horses.”
Another title for Bennett. This time of year, trainer Gerald Bennett can often be found in the winner’s circle at Tampa Bay Downs or on the road transporting horses to his late spring and summer base (he is headed to Monmouth Park this year after spending the past several years at Delaware).
When the realities of managing a stable of 40 or more horses makes it impossible to be at every race, Bennett turns to wife Mary and technology to share vicariously in a victory.
Talk about tradition: Trainer Gerald Bennett accepts his seventh consecutive Leading Trainer title from Margo Flynn, the track's Vice President of Marketing & Publicity. Wife Mary is to the left of Bennett and assistant trainer Juan Cacho Castro is to the right of Flynn (courtesy SV Photography)
So, early Friday afternoon on their return to Oldsmar after stabling horses at the New Jersey racetrack, Mary described 4-year-old filly Peaceful Way’s victory in the first race from her iPad while Bennett maneuvered through traffic.
The victory was No. 4,033 in the career of Bennett, who is 14th on the all-time training list. In April of 2021, he passed the late Frank H. Merrill, Jr., as the all-time leading Canadian-born trainer with his 3,975th winner when Baby Boomer won at Gulfstream.
“It’s a lot of work, and it gets tougher every year,” said Bennett, who is on the verge of clinching his seventh consecutive Tampa Bay Downs training title and eighth overall with 36 winners, seven more than two-time champ Kathleen O’Connell. Only Jamie Ness, with nine titles in a row from 2006-2007 through 2014-2015, has won more than Bennett.
Bennett won his second consecutive Leading Owner title last season under his Winning Stables, Inc., banner, but focused more this year on getting new owners involved in racing’s excitement and rewards. Still, nothing seems to come easy, if it ever did.
“With the purses going up, there is more competition, and when you’re on top, everyone wants to knock you off. We’re fortunate to have a lot of people who have been with us a long time and know our system. I’m thankful to all of them for doing such a good job,” Bennett said.
Foremost among Bennett’s employees is his main assistant, Juan Cacho Castro.
Bennett, who turned 78 in March, has several horses likely to be heard from elsewhere as the year progresses. His 4-year-old colt Carpenters Call finished third in his most recent start, the Grade III Kitten’s Joy Appleton Stakes on April 2 at Gulfstream, and breezed 5 furlongs here on April 27 in a swift time of 59 seconds. His 6-year-old gelding Xy Speed, who won the Laurel Dash in October, finished second here on Feb. 19 in the Turf Dash Stakes and subsequently won a starter allowance sprinting 5 furlongs on the turf.
The 5-year-old stakes-winning gelding He’s Smokin Now, 5-year-old gelding Baby Boomer and 4-year-old filly Beautiful Grace add quality and depth to the Bennett stable.
As Bennett’s friend and rival, O’Connell, is fond of saying, “it (managing a big stable) is a big wheel to churn.” Yet Bennett might have spoken for both of them after winning the Salt Rock Tavern Trainer of the Month Award earlier this season when recounting a past conversation with Jamie Ness.
“I told him that the horses get in your blood, that the desire to win and the daily striving to achieve keep you young,” Bennett said.
Around the oval. Tampa Bay Downs 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. Racing returns June 30 and July 1 during the track’s 10th annual (yeah, time flies) Summer Festival of Racing.