Monday, March 26, 2012


Nominations for the 10th annual Florida Cup Day, a celebration of the state’s excellence in breeding and raising Thoroughbreds, closed Saturday with 118 registered Florida-breds eligible for six stakes races on April 7 at Tampa Bay Downs.

The slate of Florida Cup Day races includes three on dirt and three on the turf course, with three events for 3-year-olds and three for horses 4-and-up. Each race offers purse money of $75,000 for a total in stakes purses that day of $450,000.

The Florida Cup Day dirt-course schedule includes the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs; the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies for 3-year-old fillies, also seven furlongs; and the Hilton Garden Inn Sprint for horses 4-and-up at six furlongs.

The turf schedule will include the Dayton Andrews Dodge Sophomore Turf for 3-year-olds at about a mile-and-a-sixteenth; the First Dude Distaff Turf for fillies and mares 4-and-up, also about a mile-and-a-sixteenth; and the Turf Classic for horses 4-and-up at about a mile-and-an-eighth.

Since its inception in 2003, Florida Cup Day has drawn entrants from most of the top stables in the state, and 2012 is certain to be no different. The powerful Todd A. Pletcher Racing Stables operation has nominated nine horses to Florida Cup Day, with at least one nominee for each race.

Pletcher may have the option of entering a potent one-two punch in the Turf Classic. His 5-year-old Doubles Partner, bred by Arthur I Appleton and owned by WinStar Farm LLC, won the Grade III Canadian Turf Stakes on March 3 at Gulfstream and already has shown an affinity for the Tampa Bay Downs grass course, winning last year’s Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes.

Pletcher’s other Turf Classic nominee, 4-year-old ridgling Turbo Compressor – bred by the late Mr. Appleton’s Bridlewood Farm and owned by P and G Stable and Off the Hook, LLC – is a multiple-stakes winner who made his career turf debut a winning one March 18 at Gulfstream in an allowance optional claiming event. Last year, he finished second in the Florida Cup Day Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore.

Also nominated to the Turf Classic is this year’s Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes winner Roman Tiger, from the barn of owner-trainer Dennis Manning. Roman Tiger prevailed in the Tampa Bay Stakes by a nose from El Commodore at odds of 28-1 under jockey Angel Serpa.

The nominations list includes three of last year’s Florida Cup Day winners. Trainer H. Graham Motion – the conditioner of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom – may look for a Turf Classic repeat with 5-year-old gelding Slews Answer, owned by Live Oak Plantation.

Trip for A.J., a 5-year-old mare bred and owned by Peter Fuller and trained by Milton Wolfson, is nominated for a possible return engagement in the First Dude Distaff Turf. Her competition could include graded stakes winners Romacaca and Unbridled Humor and stakes winner Hooh Why.

Trainer Mandy Ness has nominated Jagger Inc.’s 6-year-old gelding Sneaking Uponyou for a possible repeat in the Hilton Garden Inn Sprint. Sneaking Uponyou, who was bred by McLaughlin Family Limited Partnership, set the stakes and track record of 1:08.69 in last year’s running under the care of leading Tampa Bay Downs trainer Jamie Ness, Mandy’s husband. Jagger Inc. is the Ness family’s stable name.

The Hilton Garden Inn Sprint drew 24 nominations, the most of any Florida Cup Day event. Also included are other accomplished sprinters such as Donald Dizney’s 5-year-old horse Apriority, who won the Grade III Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream on Dec. 31, and Jean and Thomas Bosch’s 4-year-old filly It’s Me Mom, who won the Dec. 31 Minaret Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and the Jan. 28 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream.

Tampa Bay Downs jockeys Ronnie Allen, Jr. has won enough races to know you don’t stop trying until you get to the finish line. So after riding three winners on Sunday’s card, Allen clings to hope – however slim – of catching Leandro Goncalves in the track’s jockey standings.

With 22 racing days remaining in the 2011-12 meeting, defending track champion Allen has 54 victories, 29 behind Goncalves, who won one race Sunday. Allen won the first race Sunday on 5-year-old gelding Styner for trainer Gerald Bennett and the fourth on the turf on 3-year-old filly Island Prayer for conditioner Ian Wilkes.

In the sixth race, a one-mile claiming event on the turf, Allen teamed with trainer Maria Bowersock for a victory with 5-year-old mare Snow Fair at odds of 7-1. He was second in the seventh race on 7-year-old mare Moms Glide.

Live racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. There is no live racing Thursday, but the track remains open for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in the Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.

Saturday, Tampa Bay Downs will simulcast five races from the Dubai World Cup card beginning at 11 a.m., culminating in the $10-million Dubai World Cup at 1:40 p.m.

Included in the simulcast schedule is the Dubai Golden Shaheen, in which Tampa Bay Downs jockey Willie Martinez will ride Giant Ryan. The Dubai Golden Shaheen will be simulcast at about 11:35 a.m.

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