By Mike Henry —-
OLDSMAR, FL. – Normally reserved for promising 2-year-olds, Saturday’s annual Cotillion Festival Day celebration at Tampa Bay Downs promises an exciting twist with a pair of $125,000 3-year-old stakes sponsored by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.
Both the FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings and the FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes for 3-year-old fillies are for registered Florida-breds sired by an FTBOA-registered Florida stallion and will be contested at 7 furlongs.
Both races have attracted seven entrants, with the City of Ocala FSS the second race and the Marion County FSS the third race.
The newcomers to the Oldsmar stakes scene join the 33rd edition of the $100,000 Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-old males and the 39th annual, $100,000 Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies (both at 6 furlongs) to comprise the most lucrative Cotillion Festival Day in track history. Both the Inaugural and Sandpiper have drawn a field of nine, with the Sandpiper slated as the sixth race and the Inaugural as the ninth.
Saturday’s 10-race card will be preceded by the “Welcome Back” EG Vodka Brunch at the Downs Presented by PDQ from 10:30 a.m.-noon. For $8, patrons can strap on the feedbag and enjoy a top-notch breakfast including scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, fruit, pastries and beverages.
Early arrivals will get to watch horses working out on the main Tampa Bay Downs dirt surface.
The FTBOA Marion County FSS features a much-anticipated rematch between Three Rules, owned by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Tom Fitzgerald and Geoff Roy, and Mo Cash, owned by Marco Thoroughbred Corp.
They met July 1 in the Grade III Carry Back Stakes at Gulfstream Park, with the Jose Pinchin-trained Three Rules staging an impressive rally to edge Mo Cash by a neck. The Marion County FSS is the first race since for Three Rules, a five-time stakes winner who finished second last winter in the Grade II Swale and third in the Grade II Fountain of Youth, both at Gulfstream.
Three Rules will be ridden by Emisael Jaramillo.
Mo Cash, trained by Ronald Spatz, has two career stakes victories, including the Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore at Tampa Bay Downs on April 2. Antonio Gallardo will be aboard for the riding assignment.
Heading the City of Ocala FSS is Tampa Bay Downs favorite R Angel Katelyn, who has recorded three of her five stakes victories at the Oldsmar oval. Owned by Averill Racing, CCF Racing Stable and K Lauren Racing and trained by Gerald Bennett, R Angel Katelyn is blessed with sprinter’s speed and enough stamina to make 7 furlongs well within her scope. She will be ridden by Gallardo.
Their top challenger could be the Kathleen O’Connell-trained Stormy Embrace, who finished third in last month’s Millions Distaff Stakes at Gulfstream Park West. Wilmer Garcia is set to ride.
All Thoroughbreds, for record-keeping purposes, celebrate their birthdays on Jan. 1, so only 19 days remain before the Inaugural and Sandpiper entrants turn 3. The 18 competitors are seeking to cap their debut seasons with peak performances.
Among the top contenders in the Inaugural is Wildcat’s Legacy, a Florida-bred colt whose 2-for-2 record includes an easy victory in the Juvenile Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park West on Nov. 11. Wildcat’s Legacy is trained by Ralph Nicks, who won last month’s 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar with Caledonia Road.
Wildcat’s Legacy will be ridden by Gallardo. They could encounter serious challenges from Tampa Bay Downs allowance/optional claiming winner His Name Is Sue, the Pinchin-trained Gone Fishing and Laurel maiden winner Tricks to Doo.
In the Sandpiper, top trainer H. Graham Motion sends out Kentucky-bred Almond Roca and jockey Pablo Morales to face eight foes. The field includes Toni Ann’s Miracle, the Larry Pilotti-trained filly riding a three-race winning streak; and Valuable Package, a Skip Einhorn-trained Florida-bred who broke her maiden by almost eight lengths before finishing third in the Grade III Matron Stakes at Belmont Park in October.
Around the oval. Veteran jockey Dean Butler returned to the winner’s circle today for the first time since suffering a transverse fracture of his spine in a spill at Canterbury Park in Minnesota on June 30. Butler won today’s fourth race aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding American Luxury for owner-trainer Juan Arriagada.
Although the injury did not require surgery, a brain scan revealed the presence of a basilar tip aneurysm. Butler underwent surgery in mid-September, a procedure that involved the insertion of flexible metal coils to “correct” the aneurysm and a stent to hold the coils in place.
Butler, who has won five riding titles at Canterbury, said the episode reinforced his belief that everything happens for a reason, since the aneurysm probably would not have been found had he not been injured.
Six-time Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Daniel Centeno rode three winners today. He captured the first race on Vindicta, a 2-year-old filly owned by Turf Stable and trained by J.K. Sweezey. Centeno added the third race on the turf aboard Madeyourpoint, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Rosebud Stable and trained by Wayne Potts.
Centeno and Potts teamed for another victory in the sixth race with Socially Driven, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Top Hat Thoroughbreds.
Tampa Bay Downs newcomer Michael Stidham took undisputed possession of the top spot in the trainer standings when his 3-year-old gelding Harv Won’t Tap rallied under Brian Pedroza to win the seventh race. Stidham, who has five victories from 12 starters, also sent out race runner-up Memory Bank, producing a $49.80 exacta.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The feature is the fifth race, a $23,500 allowance/optional claiming event for horses 3-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf.
Tampa Bay Downs currently is racing on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule, with Sundays added to the mix on Jan. 31. The track is open every day except Christmas, Dec. 25 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.