Sunday, March 8, 2020
OLDSMAR - Retired Major League Baseball star Victor Martinez played on five teams that reached the post-season, was an American League All-Star five times and slugged 246 home runs in his 16-year career, which ended in 2018.
But in the glow of a raucous winner’s-circle celebration late Saturday afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs, he said that nothing in his baseball career compared to the experience of his 3-year-old colt King Guillermo winning the Gr. II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby at odds of 49-1.
“My dad died when I was six, and I always wanted to have a horse named for my dad,” an emotional Martinez said after King Guillermo posted a 4 ¾-length victory over 3-2 favorite Sole Volante in 1:42.63 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth. As a bonus, Martinez’s Venezuelan countryman, Samy Camacho, was in the saddle. The clocking was the third-fastest in the 40 editions of the Tampa Bay Derby.
“This is absolutely something else," Martinez said." I thank God for this opportunity and putting a great horse in my hands. My mom (Margot, part of the festive scene) taught me how to dream. She taught me dreams are for free. We believed in this horse and he made our dream come true.”
Another Venezuelan, Juan C. Avila, is the trainer of King Guillermo, who improved to 2-for-4 with the victory, in his first start of 2020. He paid $100.40 to win, the second-biggest payoff in the history of the race, surpassed only by Bold Southerner’s $179.40 in 1984.
The Tampa Bay Derby is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, and King Guillermo earned 50 points with his victory – virtually assuring him a spot in the May 2 Run for the Roses, as long as his connections pay the late Triple Crown nomination fee. He was one of only two horses in the 12-horse field not yet nominated. That bit of paperwork could wait Saturday.
“I hope he is going to the Kentucky Derby,” said Camacho, whose smile stretched almost to Caracas after the race. “I’m so happy, I say thank you to God and all the team – Mr. Juan Carlos Avila, the trainer, the owner, Victor Martinez, and everybody who made this dream possible. From the 3/8ths-mile pole I had a lot of horse and I was worried a little about Chance It and Sole Volante, but I had a lot of confidence in my horse because he was doing really well in the mornings and he felt strong,” Camacho said.
Sole Volante, the Gr. III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner here four weeks ago, picked up 20 points with his second-place finish, 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Texas Swing – the other horse not nominated to the Triple Crown. Pace-setter Relentless Dancer held on for fourth, followed by disappointing second choice Chance It.
King Guillermo is a Kentucky-bred son of Uncle Mo, out of Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band. He was bred by Carhue Investments, Grouseridge Ltd. And Marengo Investments and was purchased by Martinez for $150,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. The winner’s share of $210,000 raised his career earnings to $240,350. King Guillermo’s previous victory came on Nov. 2 at Gulfstream Park West in a one-mile maiden special weight race on the turf, but his team decided his workouts on the dirt at Gulfstream since early January merited a shot today.
Sole Volante also came out of the OBS April sale, going for a bargain $20,000 from the consignment of New Hope AB, which had purchased him for just $6,000 out of the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale.
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The Tampa Bay Derby was one of five stakes races, four graded, on a Festival Day card that drew 10,021 fans in sunny, breezy weather. Handle on the 12-race card was $13,155,349, third largest in the track's history, and on-track handle of $856,300 was up 4.5-percent over last year’s Festival Day card.
In the Gr. II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf, Florida-bred mare Starship Jubilee, the favorite, withstood a strong stretch challenge from Chad Brown-trained Beautiful Lover to post a 1 ¼-length victory in 1:47.83 for the mile-and-an-eighth. Kelsey’s Cross finished third and Magic Star was fourth in the 11-horse field.
The 7-year-old Starship Jubilee, owned by Blue Heaven Farm and trained by Kevin Attard, improved to 17-for-35 lifetime. The $145,000 winner’s share of the purse raised her earnings to $1,498,667. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano was aboard for the victory. “She’s such a classy horse,” Castellano said. “This is the type of horse you can do whatever you want – you can dictate the pace or you can come from behind. I enjoyed the ride and I’m very fortunate to be part of it. It looks like she is getting better and better and better.” Tino Attard claimed Starship Jubilee for $16,000 at Gulfstream in 2017.
In the Gr. III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, the Eddie Kenneally-trained Outburst held off a frantic rally by Walk In Marrakesh to post a head victory in an excellent 1:42.03 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth. Outburst was also ridden by Castellano, who probably won the race when he managed to slow her down on the lead through a second quarter in :25.62 seconds after a :22.91 opening split. Secret Stash finished third and How Ironic was fourth in the 12-horse field.
In the $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf, Kentucky-bred colt Doc Boy rallied from well back to grab a 1 ¾-length victory from Mr. Kringle. Summer Assault finished third and pace-setter Alley Oop Johnny was fourth. Doc Boy, who is owned by Stallionaire Enterprises, improved to 3-for-6 with the victory, achieved in 1:34.67 for the one-mile distance, .15 seconds off the stakes record. The son of Into Mischief-Peggy May, by Lemon Drop Kid, is trained by Michael Stidham and was ridden by Joe Bravo.
AROUND THE OVAL - In the second race, the $40,000 Manatee Overnight Handicap for fillies and mares, 4-year-old Florida-bred stakes-winner J P’s Delight withstood a challenge from Gr. II stakes-winner Point of Honor at the top of the stretch and powered home to a four-length victory under jockey Paco Lopez. Her time for the 7 furlongs was 1:22.48.
J P’s Delight, who is owned by Brent Fernung (Journeyman Stud) and Eugene Cahalan and trained by Kathleen O’Connell, improved to 4-for-5 with the victory. She had won the FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes on Dec. 14, also going 7 furlongs.