by Mike Henry

On a sunny, windy afternoon, a pair of lightly raced 4-year-olds delivered sparkling, whirlwind finishes to be remembered on Turf Champions Day at Tampa Bay Downs.

A little more than an hour after 4-year-old filly Surprisingly rallied for a neck victory from Scotish Star in the Grade III, $175,000 Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares in stakes-record time, 4-year-old colt Emmanuel did even better, surging through the stretch to win the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths from pace-setter and eventual runner-up Winfromwithin.

Emmanuel’s time of 1:39.25 is a new stakes and course record, eclipsing the Tampa Bay Downs mark for the distance of 1:39.65 set by Legs Galore in the same event in 1999, the second year of racing on the Oldsmar oval turf course.


Emmanuel shows signs of being a burgeoning turf star in his Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes triumph under Javier Castellano (courtesy SV Photography)

“I’m very pleased. It was an excellent comeback,” trainer Todd Pletcher said via text message from Gulfstream Park of Emmanuel’s first start since early August. “(The course record) makes it even more impressive.”

Winning jockey Javier Castellano, a lot closer to the Tampa Bay Stakes action, was more expansive in describing things.

“(Coming off the pace today) really was the game plan,” Castellano said of Emmanuel, who had won the Grade II Pennine Ridge on June 4 at Belmont in front-running fashion. “I thought there would be a lot of speed in the race, and (Winfromwithin) had the speed to dictate the pace. We saved ground as best we could and when I tipped him outside, he responded.”

Castellano said he benefited from working Emmanuel last week at Pletcher’s Palm Beach Downs base in south Florida. “It seemed like he was relaxed today. It was a beautiful trip, and I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” Castellano said.

Jose Batista, on Winfromwithin, had no complaints with his horse’s effort. The 5-year-old hung on gamely to edge Golden Alchemist by a neck for second, with Verbal fourth in the 12-horse field.

Emmanuel, who paid $14.60 to win, had been on the Triple Crown trail last year, with an impressive 4 ½-length victory in his second career start on Jan. 30 on the Tampa Bay Downs dirt creating Kentucky Derby fever among many of his followers.

But Pletcher switched gears after a fourth in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth and a third in the Toyota Blue Grass, and the son of More Than Ready-Hard Cloth, by Hard Spun, seems to have found a new niche.

Owned by WinStar Farm and Siena Farm, he is now 4-for-7, with career earnings of $362,100.

Surprisingly’s victory in the Endeavour was close to being just as impressive. With Scotish Star and Marketsegmentation appearing set to duel to the wire, Surprisingly and jockey Paco Lopez closed with a rush to post a neck victory from Scotish Star. The winner’s time of 1:40.08 on the firm turf course bettered the former stakes record of 1:40.26, set by My Lordship in 2006.


Surprisingly, Paco Lopez aboard, probably surprised her trainer a bit in capturing the Grade III Endeavour Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)

Surprisingly’s fourth victory in seven starts for the Phipps Stable-bred and owned, Claude “Shug” McGaughey-trained winner resulted in a payoff of $9.40 for bettors. Marketsegmentation, making only her fourth career start, held on gamely for third, with pace-setter Panama Red lasting for fourth in the 11-horse field.

“I thought she ran great and I though Paco (Lopez) rode her great, and that made the difference,’ McGaughey said by telephone from his south Florida base, about an hour-and-a-half after he won the Grade III Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park with General Jim. “(Lopez) saved ground around both turns and swung her outside so she could finish, and they both did a great job.

“It’s her first graded race and her first time against older horses, so we didn’t really know what to expect,” McGaughey said. “I thought she could be competitive, but there were a lot of competitive horses in the race. We took a shot, and it worked.”

At the top of the stretch, Lopez, who had only one horse beat early, figured he would be hard-pressed to catch the top two. That is, until ability or genetics or will, or a combination of all three, kicked in, and the daughter of Mastery-Vagabond, by Arch, virtually sprouted wings and took dead aim on the leaders.

“I saw (Scotish Star) was a couple of lengths in front, but I had better position and I could feel my horse picking up speed,” Lopez said. “She ran very fast at the end. She was flying.”

First-place money of $90,000 raised Surprisingly’s career bankroll to $205,950. That winner’s check, runner-up jockey Castellano figured, was heading the way of Scotish Star’s owners and trainer Pletcher (and himself) until Surprisingly kind of shocked him.

“No excuses, not at all,” Castellano said. “I am really satisfied with how my horse ran and I liked the way she finished. I thought I won the race turning for home, but we were second-best.”

Around the oval. Leading jockey Samy Camacho rode three winners, extending his advantage in the season’s competition to 51-30 from runner-up Pablo Morales. Camacho won the fourth race on Liking It Twisted, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Juan Arriagada and Robert M. Bosso and trained by Arriagada.

Camacho added the fifth, the Lambholm South Race of the Week on the turf, with Talk of the Nation, a 3-year-old colt owned by Joseph Allen, LLC and China Horse Club and trained by Clade “Shug” McGaughey, III. Camacho scored again in the 10th on the turf on Tallahatachiebridge, a 4-year-old colt bred and owned by Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey and trained by Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.

Trainer Jorge Delgado sent out two winners today. He is tied with Gerald Bennett in the Leading Trainer race, 22-22.

Delgado won the first race with Old Time Revival, an 8-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Strike Stable and ridden by Eddie Santiago. Delgado added the third on Creative Cloud, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Joseph Colonna and ridden by Paco Lopez.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. 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.