Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Midnight Stroll captures Delaware Oaks . . .
    Lea Farm’s Willy Boi led a 1-2-3 OBS sweep of Saturday’s $150,000, Gr. III Smile Sprint Invitational Stakes at Gulfstream, taking command after turning for home, opening daylight in the stretch and scoring by a length over Pudding (August ’16, January ’16), with Absolute Grit (March ‘19) checking in third. That’s three stakes wins for the 4-year-old Florida-bred son of Uncaptured, sold for $40,000 by breeder Ocala Stud as a 2-year-old in training at the 2020 OBS October Sale after turning in an Under Tack quarter in :21 1/5. Now 12-6-1-0 for trainer Jorge Delgado, he has earned $308,485 to date. 

    OBS grads posted at pair of stakes wins on Saturday at Delaware Park.

    Harrell Ventures Main Event went right to the front in the $200,000, III Gr. Kent Stakes and was never headed, coasting home to victory by a length and a half. It’s the second stakes win for the 3-year-old colt by Bernardini, trained by George Weaver, now 7-3-1-0 with $246,333 in earnings. Consigned by Ocala Stud, Agent, to the 2021 OBS Spring sale, he was purchased for $130,000 by Steven W. Young, Agent, after turning in an Under Tack quarter in :21 3/5. 

    Gatsas Stables, R. A. Hill Stable and Steven Schoenfeld’s Midnight Stroll moved to contention on the turn in the $295,000 Delaware Oaks, took charge a furlong out and held off a late run by fellow OBS graduate Shotgun Hottie (April ’21) to win by a head. That’s two stakes wins for the lightly raced 3-year-old daughter of Not This Time, a two-time OBS graduate. She went through the ring at the 2020 Winter Mixed Sale before she was purchased for $225,000 out of the Abbie Road Farm consignment at the 2020 October Selected Yearling Sale. Trained by John Terranova, she’s now 6-3-0-0 and has earned $238,225. 

    Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Hoity Toity moved into contention on the backstretch after being forced wide on the first turn in Woodbine’s $150,000, Gr. III Selene Stakes, split horses to take the lead in the stretch and was best by three quarters at the wire. It’s the first stakes win for the 3-year-old filly by Uncle Mo, trained by Mark Casse, now 5-3-0-0 with $144,835 in earnings. She was purchased by Live Oak for $550,000 out of the Pike Racing consignment at the 2021 OBS March Sale after turning in an Under Tack eighth in :10 1/5. 
Sunday, July 3, 2022
Defeats Spirit Wind by more than 6 lengths . . .
    HALLANDALE BEACH - Bo Hirsch’s Ce Ce made an emphatic title defense in Saturday’s $300,000, Gr. II Princess Rooney Invitational at Gulfstream Park while earning another fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in the Fall.

    The Princess Rooney, a seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup ‘Win & You’re In’ event for fillies and mares named in tribute to the 1984 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner and champion older mare, headlined Saturday’s Summit of Speed program that also featured the $100,000, Gr. III Smile Sprint, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up.

    The Michael McCarthy-trained daughter of Elusive Quality captured the Princess Rooney by 3 ¼ lengths last year before going on to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Del Mar to clinch to the Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter.

    “I just don’t have enough superlatives and good things to say about her,” said McCarthy, who watched the Princess Rooney in his Southern California living room before heading to Santa Anita. “She’s very special.”

    Ce Ce’s encore performance may well have topped her first visit to Gulfstream Park, scoring by 6 ½ lengths as the 2-5 favorite.

    The 6-year-old mare rated in fourth along the backstretch as Make Mischief set the pace along the backstretch after breaking alertly from her No. 6 post position just outside Ce Ce. Gulfstream-based Spirit Wind closely tracked the pacesetter along the backstretch and on the far turn before challenging Make Mischief on the turn into the homestretch and taking over the lead. Meanwhile, Ce Ce responded when asked for her run by Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza, sweeping three wide into the stretch and drawing clear with a commanding outside drive.

    “I got kind of lucky the outside horse cleared us and I just stocked the leaders. I didn’t want to stay too far back today. I wanted to be close to the pace,” Espinoza said. “I didn’t want them to sneak away from me, but at the three-eighths I asked her to go and she went on.”

    Ce Ce ran seven furlongs in 1:22.20 to collect her 10th career victory and pushing her career earnings over $2.275 million.

     “I told Victor to just bounce on out of there. I wasn’t sure what the filly outside of us was going to do. When she ended up catching a flyer out of there, Victor was content to just let her go and sit outside the speed,” McCarthy said. “She did what I expected her to do. Obviously, it’s never convenient when you ship all the way across the country, but it’s a racetrack that she’s fond of. The spacing of the race was great.”

    Ralph Nicks-trained Spirit Wind, a 3-year-old Bahamian Squall filly who had won her three starts this year at Gulfstream  by a combined 23 lengths, finishes second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Make Mischief.

    For McCarthy, Ce Ce’s triumph continued his good fortune at Gulfstream Park, where he saddled City of Light for a victory in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational in 2019. The former Todd Pletcher assistant reported that plans for Ce Ce’s next start are undecided.

    “We’ll play it by ear, but we might follow the same program we followed last year,” said McCarthy, whose champion mare went on last year to run in the Gr. I Ballerina at Saratoga, and the Gr. II Chillingsworth at Santa Anita before rolling to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Friday, July 1, 2022
Ademar Santos Takes Jockeys' Challenge . . .
    OLDSMAR - The first race on the official first day of the 2022-2023 Tampa Bay Downs racing season unveiled a first-time starter who might have a bunch of firsts in her future.

    April Mist, a 3-year-old filly owned by Anthony Lenci and Chad Stewart and trained by Stewart, unleashed a powerful kick on the turn for home and drew off to an 11 ½-length victory in the 5-furlong, $16,000 maiden claiming turf sprint. She toured the distance under jockey Ademar Santos in :55.33 seconds, 1.36 seconds off the course record.

    April Mist is a Louisiana-bred daughter of Catalina Red, a Gr. II winner Stewart trained to three stakes victories at Tampa Bay Downs from 2014-2016. Stewart and Lenci, who owned Catalina Red, purchased April Mist for $5,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.

    “We wanted to buy some Catalina Red (offspring), and she looks just like him,” Stewart said of the flashy chestnut, who is out of stakes winner Divine Lorretta. “She ran really fast. … I’m sure we’re going to get some phone calls about her. It’s exciting watching her win and remembering the stakes races (Catalina Red) won. It’s pretty cool.”

    April Mist’s romp provided Santos with the impetus to win the $5,000 Jockeys’ Challenge for a record fourth time in the 10-year history of the two-day Summer Festival of Racing. Thursday’s card was the official final day of the 2021-2022 meet, with today’s action (for record-keeping purposes) kicking off 2022-2023.

    Santos’s winning total of 64 points was one more than Skyler Spanabel and Marcos Meneses, who shared second. Santos collected $2,500, with Spanabel and Meneses each earning $1,250.

    April Mist was Santos’s only winner during the two days ((he had four seconds), and he was forced to skip his assignment for today’s final race on Drill’s Valentine to catch a flight to Toronto to be able to ride Ironstone in Saturday’s Gr. III Marine Stakes at Woodbine.

    Spanabel needed a third-place finish or better in the final race on Beauty Genius to win outright, but finished fifth. Meneses could have tied Santos by winning the race on 30-1 shot Simonela, but could only manage second to Chick’s Shadow.

    That was one of two victories on the day for Jose Alonso, who tied Meneses for most victories over the two days with three apiece. And with both winning twice today, they will sit atop the standings when the meet “resumes” on Nov. 23.
Friday, July 1, 2022
She has 46 points in aiming for $5,000 challenge prize . . .
    OLDSMAR - Skyler Spanabel returned to Tampa Bay Downs for the two-day Summer Festival of Racing with an eye on the future.

    “My main trainers wanted me to come back, and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to keep building my business,” said Spanabel, who has competed at Delaware Park and a few other mid-Atlantic tracks since the Oldsmar meet concluded on May 7. “Guys like Robert (G. Smith), Peter (Wasiluk, Jr.) and James Gulick – I want to ride for them here again next season.”

    Spanabel rode one winner today, her 23rd of the season (for record-keeping purposes, today’s action counted as the final day of the 2021-2022 campaign, while Friday’s card counts as the first day of the 2022-2023 meet). She finishes in 14th place for the meet.

    “For her to come in here and win (23 races), that says a lot because the jockey colony is so competitive,” Smith said. “Next year, everyone is going to know who she is

    Spanabel won Thusday’s fifth race, a 5-furlong dash on the turf, on Talkin Tipsy, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly bred, owned (in partnership) and trained by Gulick. Spanabel also posted a second and two thirds to take the lead in the $5,000 Jockeys’ Challenge standings with 46 points.

    The Jockeys’ Challenge winner collects $2,500, with the second-place finisher earning $1,500 and third taking home an extra $1,000. Spanabel is named on four horses today. Three-time Jockeys’ Challenge winner Ademar Santos, who is second with 27 points, and Marcos Meneses (tied for third with Jose Alonso with 25 points), are both named to ride all eight races.

    Points are awarded on an 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale based on each jockey’s finish in a race, so Santos and Meneses have decent shots to make things tight by this afternoon.  

    For the 22-year-old Spanabel, being in the thick of the fight is what matters.

    “Riding here today, it feels like I never left,” she said. “I’m trying to give everybody I ride for the best I can. They’re trying to make money and I’m trying to make money, and in the end you do your best and what happens, happens.”

Thursday, June 30, 2022
Action set for 2 days . . .
    OLDSMAR - Thoroughbred action returns to Tampa Bay Downs on today and Friday as the track plays host to its 10th annual, two-day Summer Festival of Racing.

    A pair of eight-race programs are scheduled, including six each day on the turf course, weather permitting. Post time for the first today is 11:58 a.m., followed by an 11:55 a.m. start Friday.

    Admission is free. Riders will compete over the two days in the $5,000 Jockeys’ Challenge, a total-points event with 8 points awarded for a victory, 7 for a second, 6 for third, etc. The winning jockey collects $2,500, with $1,500 to the runner-up and $1,000 to third.

    Three-time Tampa Bay Downs champion jockey Samy Camacho, who earned career victory No. 1,000 last month at Monmouth Park, will ride today’s Summer Festival card before returning to the New Jersey track for Friday’s action. Ademar Santos is named to ride 12 horses over the two days. Camacho (2016, 2017 and 2021) and Santos (2014, 2015 and 2019) are both three-time Jockeys’ Challenge champions.

    The Summer Festival of Racing originated in 2013 as a means to give Tampa Bay Downs greater control over summer simulcast revenue. For record-keeping purposes, today’s card counts as the final day of the 2021-2022 meet, with Friday’s races comprising the first day of 2022-2023. Tampa Bay Downs plans to then resume its 97th anniversary season on Wednesday, Nov. 23.

    The Metro Deli, located on the first floor of the Grandstand, will be open both days for pizza and sandwiches, while the concession stand at the north end of the Grandstand offers chicken tenders, French fries and other luncheon items. The Riders Up! bar on the first floor of the Grandstand is the place to enjoy a cool libation and a “front-row” view of the finish line.