OLDSMAR, FL. – Neither 3-year-old colt Shaq Diesel nor 7-year-old mare Bluefield had won a stakes race entering today’s Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Florida Sire Stakes races for registered Florida-breds at Tampa Bay Downs.
Both made up for that omission with whirlwind, heart-pounding finishes on a glorious late fall afternoon. Shaq Diesel, a son of Khozan out of Kleodora, by Tiznow, nipped pace-setter Dean Delivers by a nose in the FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes by a nose, while Bluefield, a daughter of Field Commission out of Imtheblues, by Pentelicus, showed guts and determination to post a neck victory from Dream Concert in the FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes.
Both winners turned in excellent times, with Shaq Diesel getting the 7-furlong distance in 1:22.24 on a fast track and Bluefield completing her journey in 1:22.47.
Both trainer David Fawkes and jockey Joe Bravo were ecstatic after Shaq Diesel’s victory, in which he overcame trouble on the backstretch and a wide trip on the turn.
Bravo said another horse came over on Shaq Diesel after the break, but the colt was able to recover without losing much momentum. “He was in such control that I was able to pick him right back up and take him outside, but then we lost a lot of ground on the turn,” Bravo said. “But a horse this big with such a beautiful stride. … David gave me a lot of pony to play with today. He had him ready to run.”
This was only the second race for Shaq Diesel under Fawkes, and the conditioner had a good feeling coming in after a strong second-place finish on Oct. 21 at Gulfstream in an allowance/optional claiming event. Still, Fawkes believed Dean Delivers was the class of the field, and he was visibly impressed with his horse’s closing kick.
“I didn’t think we’d get there, to be honest with you,” Fawkes said. “For a second, I had to go back and watch the replay to be sure. Her got bothered on the backside and on the turn he was so wide, but thank God he was able to get up on the crown of the track and finish strong.”
Fawkes acknowledged that Shaq Diesel – who is owned in partnership by Chester A. Bishop, Anthony Hinkson, Alvin Rampaul, Patrick Biggs and Donovan Stanford – benefited from lightning-fast fractions of 21.65 and 43.79 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and half set by Dean Delivers and Zydeceaux.
Shaq Diesel is 4-for-12 lifetime, with the winner’s share of $60,000 raising his earnings to $151,130. He paid $11.20 to win as the third betting choice in the seven-horse field of colts and geldings 3-years-old-and-upward. Big Martini finished third.
Bluefield, bred in partnership by Ed Pendray and Edward A. Seltzer and owned by Seltzer, won for the eighth time in 20 tries, but in a way her victory against six fillies and mares seemed more improbable than Shaq Diesel’s. That’s because Dream Concert appeared to be running so easily after taking the lead from Delta Charm approaching the far turn.
Leading Oldsmar jockey Samy Camacho, on Bluefield, knew his task was difficult, but he gained confidence when he was able to angle inside the tiring Delta Charm and take dead aim on the leader.
“When I hit the 3/16-mile marker and hit her on the left side, she gave me a lot of kick and I said ‘I can get it,’ ” Camacho said. “I’m real happy because I told my valet and my agent I wanted to ride this horse. All the credit goes to Bluefield and (trainer) Saffie Joseph.”
Watching the race from Gulfstream Park in south Florida, Joseph had a helpless feeling as Dream Concert controlled the race on the lead. Then, he watched Bluefield display the kind of heart that keeps all Thoroughbred people coming back.
“At the top of the stretch I thought she had a chance, but then (Dream Concert) kicked clear and I thought, ‘second place again,’ ” Joseph said. “Samy did a great job getting the rail when it presented itself, and I think that might have been the difference between winning and losing.
“This mare keeps getting better with age. She is in the best form of her life, and we’re going to continue to race her,” Joseph said.
Bluefield paid $5.80 to win as the wagering favorite. The $60,000 winner’s share boosted her career earnings to $323,000. Atomically finished third in the seven-horse field.
Around the oval. Almost 10 months had elapsed since Dreaming of Snow’s previous victory, an upset of 2022 Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Wonder Wheel here in the Suncoast Stakes. But that didn’t cause trainer Gerald Bennett to lose any confidence in the Florida-bred 3-year-old filly.
“She ran an awesome race today,” Bennett said after the daughter of Jess’s Dream posted a ¾-length victory from Poiema in the fourth race, a $54,500 allowance/optional claiming race for filles and mares, in the “racehorse” 7-furlong time of 1:23.21. “I think she got a little tired at the end, but she showed the kind of awesome speed she has.”
Samy Camacho rode Dreaming of Snow, who won for the fourth time in nine career starts for the partnership of Bennett’s Winning Stables, Inc., and Mary Thomas’s Team Equistaff, LLC. Bennett suggested a stakes race could be next if Dreaming of Snow comes out of today’s race well.
After defeating Wonder Wheel, Bennett tried Dreaming of Snow in the Grade III Florida Oaks on the Oldsmar turf course, but she faded to last after being on the lead approaching the far turn. In her next start, the 7-furlong Florida Cup Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies on the Tampa Bay Downs main track on March 26, she fell victim to a track-record performance by Munnys Gold, finishing second but in almost a different zip code.
Shortly after that race, a small chip was removed from Dreaming of Snow’s left foreleg, and she didn’t return until Nov. 19 at Gulfstream in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance/optional claiming race. Bennett thought her unfamiliarity with the Tapeta racing surface and her long period of inactivity both contributed to a seventh-place finish, but she was on top of her game today.
Camacho scored a third victory in the 10th and final race on the turf with Sacred Image, a 2-year-old filly owned by Peter M. Brant and trained by Chad Brown.
Carol Cedeno and Antonio Gallardo each rode two winners. Cedeno won the first race on Countrygirl Pride, a 3-year-old filly owned by Equine Services and trained by Juan Arriagada. Cedeno added the eighth race on the turf, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, on 3-year-old gelding April Fools Andy, owned by John Conforti and trained by Chelsey Moysey.
Gallardo won the second race on Toodaloo Y’all, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by John Hayek and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. Toodaloo Y’all was elevated to first when Miss Unconcerned was disqualified for interference in late stretch.
Gallardo added the fifth race on the turf on That’s My Cat, a 3-year-old filly owned by Leslielyn Hardesty and EZ-Nick, LLC and trained by Hardesty.
O’Connell, the Boot Barn Trainer of the Month, added a second triumph in the third race on the turf with 3-year-old colt My Favorite Topic. Jesus Castanon was aboard for O’Connell and owner Windylea Farm.