By Mike Henry —-
OLDSMAR, FL. – For a few minutes following today’s $100,000 Gasparilla Stakes, leading Tampa Bay Downs trainer Gerald Bennett might have felt as if he was in a never-ending bad dream.
Bennett, who sent out second-place finishers in two earlier stakes races on the card, had just watched his 3-year-old filly R Angel Katelyn turn in a powerhouse performance to win by a length-and-three-quarters in a strong time of 1:23.94 for the seven-furlong distance. But a stewards inquiry, followed by a claim of foul by Jesus Castanon, the jockey aboard runner-up Jumby Bay, caused Bennett and the rest of the R Angel Katelyn crowd – about five-dozen strong – to sweat things out a little longer.
“She was winning easy,” Bennett said to no one in particular. “(Jumby Bay) wasn’t going to get by her, anyway.”
After a brief but nerve-wracking wait, the stewards agreed, upholding the victory by R Angel Katelyn and jockey Edwin Gonzalez. The triumph was the third consecutive stakes score for the Florida-bred daughter of High Cotton-Send for an Angel, by Southern Halo, who had won the Sandpiper Stakes from the Todd Pletcher-trained Jumby Bay here on Dec. 3.
Bred in Florida by Craig Lawrence Wheeler, R Angel Katelyn, now 4-for-5 lifetime with a second, is owned by Bradenton, Fla., residents Rich Averill (Averill Racing), Clark Freeman (CCF Racing Stable) and Roger Smith (K Lauren Racing).
R Angel Katelyn’s impressive triumph was part of a Skyway Festival Day card that included victories by The Money Monster in the $100,000 Pasco Stakes for 3-year-olds and 5-year-old mare No Fault of Mine in the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes.
Also of note, trainer Tom Proctor won with all three of his starters, including the multiple grade/group-placed 4-year-old filly Earring on the turf in the 10th race.
But it was the Gasparilla that had a sun-splashed crowd, including about 60 of Averill’s family members, friends and co-workers, roaring loudest as Jumby Bay whittled away late at R Angel Katelyn’s lead. The runner-up never appeared as if she was going to pass R Angel Katelyn, but the winner drifted out in deep stretch, leading to the inquiry.
“It’s hard to win a race, and it’s really hard to win in front of everybody. That’s what makes this so special,” Averill said. “It’s very exciting for me. She ran unbelievable today, and this is one of my top moments at Tampa Bay Downs.”
Bennett exhaled before addressing R Angel Katelyn’s performance. “This track always slows later in the day, and when I saw she ran the half-mile in (44.32 seconds), I thought she was going a little too quick,” he said. “But she has been training like a monster in the mornings, and she showed a lot of class today.”
R Angel Katelyn paid $4 as the wagering favorite. Lirica rallied for third, five lengths behind Jumby Bay in the nine-horse field.
Gonzalez, who rode three winners on the card, said he always felt he had enough horse to stave off any challengers. “I didn’t want to go to the lead right away and be fighting with everybody, so I sat behind two other horses until about the 3/8-mile pole. Nothing was coming behind me, and she did it pretty easy,” he said.
In the Pasco Stakes, Rohan Crichton, the co-owner and trainer of The Money Monster, has always believed in the 3-year-old colt’s potential. But he is still trying to get him out of the habit of getting lazy when he’s running free and clear.
“I could outrun him in a breeze if he’s by himself,” Crichton said after The Money Monster’s dramatic half-length victory from 7-5 favorite Chance of Luck in the $100,000, seven-furlong contest. “But when he’s with company and has a target, he is pretty tough.”
The Bennett-trained Chance of Luck laid down the gauntlet in deep stretch, briefly sticking his head in front on the outside, and The Money Monster responded, digging in under jockey Edgard Zayas to capture the Pasco hardware in a time of 1:24.04. Arrecife finished three lengths back in third in the seven-horse field.
Zayas kept The Money Monster, who broke from the No. 3 post, on the inside through the early running of the Pasco, tracking pace-setter Field Trip, before launching his bid on the turn. Chance of Luck, the Inaugural Stakes winner here on Dec. 3, was also moving well on the outside under jockey Erick Rodriguez, setting up a thrilling duel to the wire.
“I was concerned my horse got the lead a little too soon, but it worked out perfectly because (Chance of Luck) got the jump on me,” Zayas said. “My horse saw him and he fought back. When he gets a chance to go eyeball-to-eyeball with another horse, he keeps trying and keeps trying.”
Rodriguez said the outside trip for Chance of Luck, who started from the No. 7 post, may have cost his colt the victory.
“The (post) position really hurt us,” said Rodriguez, who was also aboard Chance of Luck for his Inaugural triumph. “I thought he ran his race, but we were wide the whole race and the winner was able to save a lot of ground.”
The Money Monster, now 2-for-2 lifetime, paid $9.20 as the second wagering choice. He is a Kentucky-bred by Majestic Warrior out of Awesomekaylee, by Awesome Again. He had last run Nov. 20, when he broke his maiden in his career debut at Gulfstream Park West.
Crichton, who owns The Money Monster in partnership with Cheryl Baker, said he could return in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 11, the track’s Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South. The Sam F. Davis, which awards “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying points to the first four finishers, is at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
“He likes this track, I think,” said Crichton, who earned his first stakes victory as a conditioner. “And I think he wants to go two turns. Both of his grandfathers (A.P. Indy and Awesome Again) are Breeders’ Cup Classic winners, so I think the longer they go, the better he’ll get.”
Crichton credited Zayas with devising the winning game plan. “Edgard has been on him four or five times in the morning, and he pretty much scripted his own instructions. I thought (Chance of Luck) was going to get by us, but true to form, our horse gutted it out.”
Only 23, Zayas has won back-to-back riding titles at Gulfstream Park West and has ridden seven graded-stakes winners, including a Grade I.
In the Wayward Lass, the 5-year-old mare No Fault of Mine, who had breezed six times over the Oldsmar surface in preparation for the event, overpowered Bennett’s Royal Jewely through the stretch, posting a two-and-a-half length victory in a time of 1:44.63 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth. Daniel Centeno rode the winner, one of two victories for the leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey on the day.
The Florida-bred Royal Jewely held on well for second, seven lengths ahead of pace-setter Alto Belle, with the other five strung out far in arrears.
Bred and owned by Lothenbach Stables and trained by Chris Block, No Fault of Mine won for the fifth time in 15 career starts. Although she finished second in the Grade II Golden Rod Stakes as a 2-year-old and the Grade III Arlington Matron last year, the Wayward Lass was her first stakes victory.
“That was our plan all along when we came down here with her, to try to make her a stakes winner,” Block assistant Tony Reinstedler said of No Fault of Mine, who finished second in last year’s Minaret Stakes here. “She has always been a real hard-trying filly, no matter what surface she runs on, so it was nice to see her get her day in the sun.
“It is just a joy to be around her because she gives you 110 percent every time.”
No Fault of Mine finished sixth last summer in the prestigious Grade I Beverly D. Stakes on the turf at Arlington, only four-and-a-quarter lengths behind winner Sea Calisi.
It was Block’s first stakes victory at Tampa Bay Downs since Fort Prado’s score in the 2006 Tampa Bay Downs Stakes.
Centeno was clearly impressed by his mount and never worried much, even when Royal Jewely moved fairly effortlessly to the lead at about the half-mile pole.
“I talked to Mr. Block this morning, and he told me she was doing great and to try to break sharp and get a good position,” Centeno said. “It looked like there was a lot of speed in the race, and I tried to save ground around the first turn and make sure she was outside when it was time to run, because he said she likes being outside.
“We were a little wide going into the last turn, but when she grabbed the bit, she obviously responded. As soon as she switched (leads) on the turn and kicked in, she was gone.”
No Fault of Mine paid $3.40 as the heavy wagering favorite.
Centeno’s other victory came in the first race aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred colt Sonoma Crush for owners Stonestreet Stables, George Bolton and Greg Biagi. Sonoma Crush was claimed from the race by trainer Erin Wilkinson in a three-way shake for new owner War Tide Stables.
Around the oval. In addition to his victory with Earring – owned by Heider Family Stables, Glen Hill Farm and Hill n Dale Equine Holdings and ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr. – Proctor won two other races on the turf.
In the sixth race, his 3-year-old filly Art Institute, a homebred racing for Glen Hill Farm, scored under jockey Jesus Castanon. Proctor won the eighth race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, with Enchanteresse, a 5-year-old mare owned by Heider Family Stables. Allen was the jockey.
The two other winners ridden by Gonzalez were trained by Jamie Ness. They combined to win the second race with Money Tree, a 7-year-old gelding owned by Ness’ Jagger, Inc., stable, and added the fifth with 5-year-old mare Chesapeake Spring, owned by Timothy N. Hopkins.
Chesapeake Spring was claimed from the race by new owner-trainer Ron G. Potts.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.