Monday, February 20 2012


AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME, GONCALVES SEEKS NEW WAYS TO IMPROVE


When Leandro Goncalves piloted the 6-year-old mare Seeking Reason to a two-and-a-half length victory in the second race at Tampa Bay Downs on Sunday for her second consecutive triumph, it marked the ninth consecutive card Goncalves has ridden at least one winner.

Like any professional athlete, jockeys are capable of getting in ‘the zone,’ where it seems every move they make is correct and they keep coming home on top. But the ongoing success of Goncalves – who has 58 victories at the midway point of the 2011-12 meeting, 26 more than runner-up Ronnie Allen, Jr. – can be attributed largely to his thorough, professional approach on a day-to-day basis.





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Saturday, February 18 2012


NO GUARANTEES IN THE CLAIMING GAME


Thoroughbred racing may be the ultimate game of chance. Mare owners pay five or six-figure stud fees with no guarantees they will get a runner, much less a winner.

Trainers toil long hours in search of that one special horse, most happy to eke out a living by winning one or two races a week. Jockeys risk their health, and sometimes their lives, bouncing along at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour in quest of short-lived gratification made to last by a photograph.

When it comes to risk-takers, don’t forget the bettors. Racing never could have risen to a level of worldwide popularity without those eager to back up their opinions against the next guy.





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Friday, February 17 2012


WESLEY WARD DUO POISED FOR TURF DASH INVASION


Great Attack, who finished fourth in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, and Grade III winner Madman Diaries form a potent one-two duo from the south Florida barn of trainer Wesley Ward for Saturday’s $75,000, five-furlong Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Turf Dash is the eighth race on an 11-race card that begins with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. Great Attack – who is 4-for-14 lifetime with four seconds, but has yet to win a stakes – was the runner-up in last year’s Turf Dash Stakes, won by Bridgetown from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher.





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Thursday, February 16 2012


CIBELLI’S VERSATILITY REAPS TRAINER OF THE MONTH HONOR


If Thoroughbred trainer Jane Cibelli had her druthers, her racing stable would be comprised mostly of horses bred by her clients or purchased at yearling sales.

“I enjoy taking young horses and turning them into winners,” said Cibelli, who is the recipient of the Hurricane Grill & Wings Trainer of the Month Award. “All my stakes winners have been horses that I created.”

That group includes Chirac, who won the Grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth in 2009 as a 4-year-old, and stakes winner A Unique Treasure, a gelding who was second in the 2010 Turf Monster at Philadelphia to subsequent Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge.





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Sunday, February 12 2012


Animal Kingdom Headlines Tampa Bay Stakes Nominations


Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner and Eclipse Award recipient as Champion 3-Year-Old Male, headlines a group of 39 horses nominated to the 26th running of the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb. 25 for horses 4-and-up at a distance of about a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the Tampa Bay Downs turf.

Owned by Team Valor International and trained by H. Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom has not raced since finishing sixth in the Belmont Stakes on a sloppy track on June 11. In that race, he suffered a hairline fracture to his left hock (the joint between the gaskin and the cannon bone in a horse’s rear leg).





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ACTION ANDY BACKS UP COA’S PROMISE TO GARCIA


Before taking Action Andy to the track for the $75,000 Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, jockey Daniel Coa spotted injured rider Jesse Garcia standing outside the paddock with his arm in a sling.

“This one’s for you,” Coa said, pointing at Garcia. “This one’s for you.”





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Thursday, February 09 2012


MORALES A RISING YOUNG STAR – BUT A FAMILY MAN FIRST


Pablo Morales has a burning desire to ride stakes-quality horses at the highest-profile tracks in the United States.

Winning his first riding title last year at Presque Isle Downs (with 97 victories, tied with Huber Villa-Gomez) was a sign that the 23-year-old Morales is gaining on his goal. Being in the top five of the jockeys’ standings at Tampa Bay Downs is another indicator of solid progress.





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Monday, February 06 2012


THE MAGIC OF AFFIRMED AND CAUTHEN REUNITES A BARRERA AND A WOLFSON


In the spring of 1977, Harbor View Farm owner Louis Wolfson sent a 2-year-old colt to trainer Guillermo “Willie” Barrera at Hialeah in south Florida for final polishing before his racing debut.

Wolfson, who campaigned 1965 co-Horse of the Year Roman Brother, couldn’t imagine what the future held in store for the homebred chestnut son of Exclusive Native-Won’t Tell You, owned by himself and wife Patrice. But Barrera knew almost instantly Affirmed had championship potential.





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Sunday, February 05 2012


SAM F. DAVIS WINNER BATTLE HARDENED:  FROM MAIDEN TO PROFESSIONAL


Trainer Eddie Kenneally and jockey Julien Leparoux used the same word to describe Battle Hardened’s winning effort Saturday in the 32nd running of the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes: professional.

Despite entering the race as a maiden, the 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Giant’s Causeway-Jen’s Fashion looked the part of, well, a battle-hardened veteran, surging to the lead near the eighth pole and withstanding a belated run from Pasco Stakes winner Prospective by a length-and-a-quarter.





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Saturday, February 04 2012


DIXIE STRIKE WINS FLORIDA OAKS WITH FRENETIC FINISH


Appearing beaten until her final desperate strides, Canadian-bred 3-year-old filly Dixie Strike staged a whirlwind finish Saturday to win the 29th running of the $150,000 Florida Oaks on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs by a nose from pace setter More Than Love.

Under furious urging from jockey Jose Lezcano, Dixie Strike surged to the lead mere yards from the wire, thrilling owner John C. Oxley and his wife Debby and trainer Mark Casse. Regalo Mia rallied for third, only a neck behind More Than Love, with Northern Passion – Dixie Strike’s stable mate – another half-length back in fourth in the eight-horse field.





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Friday, February 03 2012


CASSE PRIMED FOR HARDWARE QUEST ON FESTIVAL PREVIEW DAY


Shipping four horses into a track for three major stakes races on a single day – from two training sites – is a major organizational challenge.

But it’s one trainer Mark Casse and his staff welcome, because it signifies the stable’s ability to compete at the top level of Thoroughbred racing.

“It’s why we do what we do. The people who work for us love it, too,” said Casse, who will saddle 3-year-old colt Prospective in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes; 5-year-old mare Exclusive Love in the Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes; and a pair of 3-year-old fillies, Northern Passion and Dixie Strike, in the $150,000 Florida Oaks.





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Wednesday, February 01 2012


ANIMAL KINGDOM MAY DEBUT AT TAMPA BAY DOWNS


Trainer H. Graham Motion announced Wednesday his 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, will probably make his first start as a 4-year-old Feb. 25 on the grass at Tampa Bay Downs in the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.

“The Tampa Bay race is just too logical a spot for me not to run him there,” Motion told the Daily Racing Form from his Fair Hill, Md., base after Animal Kingdom worked five furlongs on the turf at Palm Meadows in 59.61 seconds. “It gives him a chance to work three more times. Ultimately, this is all about getting him started and giving him the best opportunity to go to Dubai.”





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