Saturday, January 16, 2021
OLDSMAR - Leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Samy Camacho welcomed the chance to ride the Pasco Stakes favorite, 3-year-old colt Nova Rags, for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. But when 16-1 shot Newyearsblockparty took the lead turning for home, Camacho realized translating opportunity to success was no easy bargain.
“I was a little worried at the three-eighths pole, because (Newyearsblockparty) was going between horses and I had to start working,” Camacho said after posting a 2 ¾-length victory aboard the 13-10 favorite. “But I hit him once at the top of the stretch and he responded, and when he switched leads in the stretch it was ‘Bye.’ ”
Nova Rags’s performance was one of numerous highlights on a partly sunny, windy Skyway Festival Day afternoon. In the previous race, the 37th running of the $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Special Princess staged a whirlwind rally on the outside to forge a dead heat with pace-setter Adios Trippi
Both Special Princess and Adios Trippi are Florida-breds, meaning both earned $32,500 through additional money provided by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association. Special Princess, bred and owned by Jim DiMare's J D Farms and trained by Walter Woodard, was ridden by Ademar Santos. The co-winners finished in a time of 1:24.89. Feeling Mischief, the betting favorite, flattened out through the stretch, finishing third.
All of the winning connections were ecstatic after the Gasparilla, even though a solo victory is always preferable. It marked the first career stakes triumph for Woodard, the first stakes triumph at Tampa Bay Downs for Santos and gave Bahamian Squall, who stands at Double Diamond Farm for Donald Dizney, his first stakes-winner.
“This puts me on the map,” Woodard said. “I told everyone before the race they were going to know she was there, and Ademar did a hell of a job. She’s really come into herself and I was very confident coming into the race.”
Santos was riding Special Princess for the first time, but he’d noticed she had started slowly in her two previous Oldsmar starts and suggested to Woodard they work her from the starting gate a few days before the race to put more speed into her. “She broke a lot better today and got the job done,” Santos said. “I thought we beat her, but it feels good because you don’t have too many chances to ride this kind of horse. I told the pony rider to turn her loose in the post parade and she put her head down and got busy, and I knew she had her mind on business.”
Woodard and Santos had teamed to win the previous race on the card, the fifth, with 3-year-old claiming filly Peaceful Way, also owned by J D Farms.
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