by Mike Henry

Samy Camacho doesn’t want to look too far ahead. For now, his sights are set on staying strong and healthy and winning the Tampa Bay Downs jockeys title for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

But with a substantial lead from Pablo Morales in the standings approaching the midway point of the meet (51-32 through today’s action), the 34-year-old Venezuelan is already thinking about adding more hardware to his trophy case in the summer.

samy camacho

Samy Camacho

“I went to Monmouth Park for the first time last year and finished (tied for) third, but I didn’t win for anybody from New Jersey,” Camacho said. “The Jersey-bred program is very important up there, so I’m trying to open my lead here as much as I can because Gulfstream starts their (spring-summer meet) in April, and I’d like to try to win a title there this year.

“But if (Morales) gets closer, I’ll stay here and go to Monmouth, because I don’t want to let him beat me.”

Camacho failed to win today, a day after riding three winners and finishing third in both stakes races: on Marketsegmentation for trainer Chad Brown in the Grade III Endeavour and on Golden Alchemist for Brown in the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes.

Under the direction of his agent, Mike Moran, Camacho has ridden the most horses at the meet – 218 – and his fitness and ability, along with Moran’s knack for finding quality mounts, has him well ahead of the rest of the Oldsmar colony with a 23.4 win percentage.

“I keep learning something new every day, and I think that is why I’m doing better and winning more races,” Camacho said.

Morales, meanwhile, continues to close in on 2,500 career victories, moving within four today by winning two races on the turf. He captured the fourth race aboard Original for owner Eric Fein and trainer John P. Terranova, II and added the ninth and final race on Slime Queen, a 6-year-old mare owned by Charles D. Nielson and trained by Jon Arnett.

Around the oval. Arnett’s 7-year-old mare Alizee won today for the fourth time at the meet, breaking a tie with Imtakinittothebank for the most equine victories this season. Owned by Rodney M. Miller, who claimed her through Arnett for $6,250 on Nov. 26 from her first start of the campaign, Alizee rallied for a 2-length victory from Pretty Rachel in the 6-furlong second race, a starter/optional claiming event.

Alizee is 4-for-5 here with one second and 11-for-41 in her career. “She is a classy racehorse who always brings her ‘A’ game and is all heart,” said Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr., who also won on Alizee here on Dec. 23. “Jon and his crew have been doing an amazing job with her. I got a perfect setup outside today, kept her in the clear and out of trouble, and she did the rest.

“She is a horse that is always trying and you love that kind, regardless of what level they’re running at.”

Diaz also won the sixth race on first-time starter Chem Major, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Joker Racing and trained by Kathleen O’Connell.

Samuel Marin rode two winners today. He was victorious in the third race with Richiesonaroll, a 3-year-old colt owned by Winning Stables and trained by Gerald Bennett. Richiesonaroll was claimed from the race for $16,000 by trainer Michael B. Campbell for new owner Mellon Patch.

Marin also won the fifth race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week on the turf, on 3-year-old gelding Lucid for owner Wasabi Ventures Stables and trainer Jesse Cruz.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:28 p.m. 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.

“High Rollers” contest begins Friday. The High Rollers Handicapping Contest Presented by Horse Tourneys is Friday and Saturday. Bettors put up $1,000 to chase a $20,000 first prize (based on 100 players), other cash awards and seats for the top two finishers at either the 2023 or 2024 National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas, plus accommodations. To register, vist and click REGISTER HERE on the home page.

Players wishing to sign up Friday must be on site by 11 a.m. and make a cash payment.