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Published Feb 2, 2024
by Mike Henry
Trainer Gerald Bennett parts ways with three-year-old Florida-bred filly Peggysue I Love U after she was claimed for $25,000 from her victory in the second race.

Almost three years have passed since Winfromwithin turned in one of the most memorable performances on the Tampa Bay Downs turf, winning the 1-mile Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds in course-record time of 1:33.23 in gate-to-wire fashion.

A lot has changed in the ensuing months for Winfromwithin, who virtually duplicated that effort in last year’s Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for older horses – only to be passed late by Emmanuel, who set a stakes and course record of his own of 1:39.25 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance.

Todd Pletcher trained Winfromwithin when he won the Columbia, and he sent out Emmanuel to beat his former charge here last year in the Tampa Bay Stakes. After being sold to Lea Farm at the tail end of 2021, Winfromwithin enjoyed relatively modest success, winning three races from 12 starts the next two years including the Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth Park.

In Saturday’s Tampa Bay Stakes, slated as the 10th and final race on the Oldsmar oval’s “Turf Champions Day” card, the son of Into Mischief out of Rau Breck, by Mr. Greeley, will make his second start for current owners David A. Bernsen, LLC and Omar Aldabbagh and trainer William E. Morey. He’ll face nine rivals while breaking from the No. 4 post position under jockey Jose Ferrer.

“He is a real nice horse to be around, and he loves to train,” first-year Oldsmar trainer Morey said Thursday from Kentucky, where he was preparing to start 3-year-old gelding Vote No in tonight’s Leonatus Stakes at Turfway Park. “He (Winfromwithin) is back at his preferred distance and surface, and I’m hoping he gets back to his old self.”

The 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Tampa Bay Stakes is 6-year-old Never Explain, who will start from the No. 1 post under jockey Vincent Cheminaud. Never Explain is trained by Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III, who has sent out three previous winners of the race.

Saturday’s sixth race is the Grade III, $175,000 Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares, also at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth. Seven are entered, including two each from the barns of trainers Chad Brown, who has won the race a record four times, and H. Graham Motion, who has won it twice.

The 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Endeavour is 5-year-old mare Full Count Felicia, who captured the Grade III Suwannee River Stakes on the turf on Dec. 30 at Gulfstream Park in her most recent start. That victory led her owners to pay a $3,000 supplemental nomination fee to race, since she was not originally nominated.

Full Count Felicia will break from the No. 7 post under Emisael Jaramillo for owner Gold Square, LLC and trainer Brittany Russell.

Graded-stakes horses are generally considered the best of the best in North America, which is why it’s noteworthy to see Winfromwithin competing for different connections than he did in his previous Tampa Bay Downs stakes appearances.

On Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs, Winfromwithin ran in a 1-mile allowance/optional claiming race on the turf. Because he did not fit the other conditions of the race, he ran for a $150,000 claiming price.

That level is as rare to see as a solar eclipse, maybe, but any security the Lea Farms group felt about the high price tag crumbled when owners Bernsen and Aldabbagh instructed Morey to drop the slip to add Winfromwithin to their barn following his third-place finish.

“He obviously had very consistent form, and he was easy to like on paper,” Morey said.

For his first start under their colors, Bernsen and Aldabbagh took a chance that Winfromwithin might excel going 7 furlongs on the dirt, entering him in the Grade III Mr. Prospector Stakes on Dec. 23 at Gulfstream Park. His heart wasn’t into it, and Winfromwithin was returned here to begin training for his shot at Tampa Bay Stakes redemption.

Morey knows, of course, that sentiment won’t land Winfromwithin in the winner’s circle. “Historically these races come up strong, and it looks like a really solid field,” Morey said. “And you’ve got just about every Hall of Fame training name in the book (Shug McGaughey, Roger Attfield and Mark Casse, at least, with Chad Brown a lock to join the shrine sometime soon).

“Jose worked him (Jan. 27, 4 furlongs in 49 2/5 seconds) and he really liked the way he went,” said Morey, noting Ferrer rode him twice at Monmouth in 2022 – an allowance/optional claiming victory and a fourth in the Oceanport Stakes. “He’ll probably be on the lead or right off the pace, and the (No. 4) post seems just about right to give Jose some options.”

Sounds like a feel-good story cooking – if Father Time doesn’t get in the way.

“We’re going to see at his age, at this stage of the game, if he still has what it takes to race at this level,” Morey said.

Here is the full field for the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes in post position order, with trainer, jockey and odds:

  1. Never Explain, Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III, Vincent Cheminaud, 5-2; 2. Churchtown, Roger Attfield, Antonio Gallardo, 9-2; 3. Mohs, Patrick McBurney, Jesus Castanon, 30-1; 4. Winfromwithin, William E. Morey, Jose Ferrer, 6-1; 5. Olympic Runner, Mark Casse, Samy Camacho, 15-1; 6. Irish Aces, Brendan Walsh, Leonel Reyes, 6-1; 7. Candidate, Arnaud Delacour, Daniel Centeno, 15-1; 8. Siege of Boston, James Toner, Jorge Ruiz, 5-1; 9. April Fools Andy, Chelsey Moysey, Carol Cedeno, 20-1; 10. Running Bee, Chad Brown, Javier Castellano, 4-1.

Here is the full field for the Grade III, $175,000 Endeavour Stakes in post position order, with trainer, jockey and odds:

  1. Be My Sunshine, Saffie A. Joseph, Jr., Edwin Gonzalez, 6-1; 2. Consumer Spending, Chad Brown, Javier Castellano, 5-2; 3. Implicated, Chad Brown, Samy Camacho, 6-1; 4. Walkathon, Ian Wilkes, Antonio Gallardo, 8-1; 5. Willakia, H. Graham Motion, Vincent Cheminaud, 12-1; 6, Sparkle Blue, H. Graham Motion, Jorge Ruiz, 9-2; 7. Full Count Felicia, Brittany Russell, Emisael Jaramillo, 2-1.

Bennett is Boot Barn Trainer of Month. Expecting a Winner, a 3-year-old filly who has won her first two career starts, went 60 days between races because owner-trainer Gerald Bennett couldn’t find a race he felt suited her burgeoning ability – and, more importantly, one that would enable him to keep ownership of her.

But with all signs pointing toward a need for competition, Bennett entered her in a $16,000 claiming race on Jan. 31 against six other sophomore fillies sprinting 6 furlongs. She won easily, but at a price.

Expecting a Winner was claimed (bought) from Bennett’s Winning Stables for the $16,000 price tag by trainer Leslielyn Hardesty for new owner Happy Tenth Stable. The loss of his horse came as no surprise, but demonstrated the difficult decisions an owner and/or trainer face when deciding where and when to run their horses.

Bennett has been on both sides enough times to write a novel. He has saddled 4,135 career winners and has won eight consecutive Tampa Bay Downs training titles, one shy of the track record held by Jamie Ness, and nine overall, tied for first with Ness.

Bennett, who won three consecutive races on the Jan. 19 card, is also the Boot Barn Trainer of the Month. But it is never as easy as it looks from the outside, especially the saying goodbye part.

“That filly (Expecting a Winner) has a big heart,” he said. “She was sitting (in the barn) so long I had to put her in there, because those are the races that are going. They (the Racing Office) couldn’t get a $20K or a $25K to go. I paid $5,000 for her as a 2-year-old, so even with the money and time we had into her we did alright. We just keep our head down and keep working at it.”

Basically, the same thing happened today (Groundhog Day, of course), with Bennett’s owned-and-trained 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Peggysue I Love U competing against six others Bennett expected her to defeat handily. Samuel Marin rode her to the expected victory, but she was claimed for $25,000 by trainer Darien Rodriguez for new owners Acclaimed Racing Stable and Sabal Racing Stable.

“Horses like that (Expecting a Winner and Peggysue I Love U) could go on to win two or three more at the meet,” Bennett said. “Sir Mi Tolee (a 3-year-old claimed for $40,000 out of a second-place finish on Jan. 20) is a nice horse. If I had clients playing the claiming game (from the purchasing end) it would be different, but some of them have passed away or aren’t in the game anymore.”

As the meet progresses, Bennett knows more races will come up for his horses, and the risk of them getting claimed won’t be as high. Still, they are called racehorses for a reason and need to run when they’re ready to thrive.

“You need to have a barn full of horses that suit the conditions, and if they’re non-winners of two and they don’t have a (claiming) race for $16,000, then you go down to $8,000. They’re creatures of habit, and you want to teach them to be a winner so they know the next time they’re in against that competition how to win,” he said.

Bennett, after a slow start to the meet, is tied with Jose Francisco D’Angelo in the Oldsmar trainer standings with 15 winners, 11 behind Kathleen O’Connell. She won titles here in 1998-1999 and 2009-2010, the year she tied with Jamie Ness.

“She’s got a lot of ‘bullets’ over there,” Bennett said. “She has the numbers and they have conditions, so that makes it tough. And we’ve got some new trainers here, so it is hard to win races.”

Bennett spoke with his familiar steely gaze that made one thing abundantly clear: The game is on, and he’s loving it.

Around the oval. Victory No. 26 of the meet for trainer Kathleen O’Connell came in the seventh race on the turf. Jockey Jose Ferrer (he and O’Connell boast 87 years in the sport between them) hustled 13-1 shot Spanish Noble to the lead from the outset, and they maintained their advantage throughout the mile-and-a-sixteenth to keep That Sun of a Gun at bay. James M. Chicklo owns Spanish Noble, a 5-year-old Florida-bred.

Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule and 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.



Trainer Gerald Bennett parts ways with three-year-old Florida-bred filly Peggysue I Love U after she was claimed for $25,000 from her victory in the second race.

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