Monday, March 12, 2012


Over the past two months, trainer Jamie Ness and jockey Leandro Goncalves have combined for 29 victories from 61 starters at Tampa Bay Downs, an astounding 47.5 percent rate.

The only trainer-jockey combination to approach that level of success in North America since Jan. 1, from a comparable number of starters, is that of trainer Mike Chambers and rider Anne Von Rosen, who are 21-for-47 (almost 45 percent) over the same period at Turf Paradise in Arizona.

It comes as no surprise that Ness and Goncalves are runaway leaders in the trainer and jockey standings through the first two-thirds of the 2011-12 meeting. With 54 victories from 123 starters and a 36-win lead over Gerald Bennett and Jorge Navarro, Ness seems virtually assured of a sixth consecutive Tampa Bay Downs training title (he tied Bennett last season and tied Kathleen OConnell in 2009-10).

Ness also is headed toward eclipsing the track record of 68 victories he established during the 2007-08 meeting.

With two victories Sunday and five over the past four racing days, trainer Bernell Rhone has moved into fourth place with 17 victories from only 61 starters. Both victories Sunday came with son-in-law Dean Butler in the irons, the first aboard She’s On Her Way in the first race for Rhone’swife Cindy.

Rhone has won five races from six starters during his recent hot streak, posting at least one victory per card.

Tied for fifth in the trainer standings with 16 victories apiece are Jane Cibelli, Leigh Delacour and Kathleen O’Connell.

Goncalves has built a substantial lead in his quest for his first Tampa Bay Downs riding title. He has 73 victories from 314 mounts, 25 more triumphs than 2010-11 meet champion Ronnie Allen, Jr., who rode three winners on Sunday’s card.

Allen and Goncalves dead-heated for first in Sunday’s eighth race: Allen on 4-year-old filly Standing By for trainer Eduardo Caramori and Goncalves on 4-year-old filly Emma’s Kiss for (who else?) Ness.

Angel Serpa is third in the jockey race with 40 victories, followed by Rosemary Homeister, Jr. with 39 and Pablo Morales with 35. Danny Coa (31), Mark Guidry (25), Fernando De La Cruz (20), Ricardo Feliciano (20) and Scott Spieth (20) round out the top 10.

Erik Barbaran leads the apprentice jockey standings with nine victories, one more than Eddie Jurado.

Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., the 2011 Eclipse Award runner-up outfit which employs Ness exclusively at Tampa Bay Downs, leads the owner standings with 54 victories. Blue Top Holding Stables, operated by Juan Matos, is next with nine, followed by Lloyd Lockhart with eight; Dennis Ward with seven; and Bruno Schickedanz, Pyrite Stables (Dr. D.W. Frazier), Maureen Hyland and Move Horse, Inc. (Mark Passley) with six each.

The Midwest-owned and Ness-trained 7-year-old mare Kitty City is the leading horse by wins this meeting, with a perfect 5-for-5 record in claiming competition. The Illinois-bred daughter of Salt Lake-Holy Kitten, by Forest Wildcat, has climbed from the $5,000 claiming level to $16,000 since the start of the meet and is 12-for-42 lifetime.

Two other Midwest/Ness horses are 4-for-5 at the meeting. Stumbling Block, a 9-year-old Illinois-bred gelding, just missed joining Kitty City atop the equine meet standings Saturday, losing the fourth race by a nose on the turf to Slew City Storm.

Rich Hero, a 7-year-old son of Maria’s Mon, earned his fourth victory of the meeting from five starts March 2 in a six-furlong starter allowance.

The winner of Saturday’s Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, John Oxley’s 3-year-old Prospective, is the top money-earning horse this season at Tampa Bay Downs. First-place money of $210,000 raised his track earnings to $280,000.

Prospective – who won the $100,000 Pasco Stakes on Jan. 14 – is one of three multiple-stakes winners at the current meeting. The others are Martin Schwartz’s 5-year-old turf mare Zagora, who won the Grade III Endeavour Stakes and the Grade III Hillsborough Stakes; and Robert Gerczak’s 5-year-old gelding Action Andy, who won the Pelican Stakes and Super Stakes.

It’s Me Mom, a 4-year-old filly owned by Thomas and Jean Bosch, won the Minaret Stakes locally Dec. 31 and captured the Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28.

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

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