MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (May 8, 2010) – Veteran trainer Kathleen O’Connell closed out the 2009 season and the first two days of 2010 winning the Tropical Meet title with 17 wins, highlighted by the 23-to-1 upset victory of Gilbert Campbell’s homebred 3-year-old gelding Fly by Phil in the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby (G3) on New Year’s Day.
The title was O’Connell’s first at Calder, although a regular in the top 10 more often than not over the last 15 years, and the stable’s momentum kept going into the winter/spring season at Tampa Bay Downs where she finished in a tie atop the leader board for that long meet with Jamie Ness at 51 victories each. O’Connell previously won the Tampa Bay championship for the 1998/99 season and has been a contender most years since then.
“It’s been a heartbreaker not to have been able to go on with him,” said O’Connell Saturday morning. “He came up with a (bone) spur behind his knee which we had to have removed. It’s a very unusual thing, a one in 10,000 problem where it was located, but there are a lot worse things that can go wrong. He’s on the farm, but the prognosis is very good for him to race again and we should get him back in the barn sometime this summer.”
Continuing a summertime schedule O’Connell’s stable has followed in recent years with success, she will have a full complement of 40 horses at Calder and another substantial division of 30 bound for Colonial Downs in Virginia when the track runs from May 29-July 21 this season.
“We finished third there last year after leading the first three weeks. The success we’ve had over the last year is a testimony to a very good staff and a lot of hard work. Hopefully, we can keep it going and I think we will have some very nice 2-year-olds to look forward to this year.”
Apprentice Saez & Veteran Cruz Set Fast Early Pace at Calder
Most South Florida racing fans would have predicted that 17-year-old apprentice Luis Saez and 39-year-old veteran Manoel Cruz would duel for the lead in the jockey standings this season at Calder Casino & Race Course, and the two have engaged from the start on Sun., Apr. 25 to rank one-two after seven days going into Saturday’s card at 12-11 wins.
Saez won four in a day last week and Cruz four on Friday’s program to draw within one. The top two are followed by former Calder riding champions Elvis Trujillo and Paco Lopez tied for third at seven apiece, but both will be bound for New Jersey and the opening of Monmouth Park later this month.
Cruz is the defending Calder Meet champion after winning 167 races in 2009 with Saez fifth at 54, arriving from his native Panama to launch his U.S. career in August. The two finished two-three, respectively, at the Tropical Meet behind Eibar Coa, who arrived in South Florida for the winter season earlier than usual from New York.
Cruz will celebrate his 40th birthday on May 20 while Saez turns 18 on May 19.
Whereas the rider standings could be expected to develop as a duel between Saez and Cruz, the trainers’ title chase could be expected to be very competitive, and indeed, has developed that way in the early days with four horsemen sending out three winners each – Steve DiMauro, Ron Spatz, Christos Gatis and Erik Posada – and 10 others with two victories apiece.
Mambo Meister & Bim Bam Kept on Edge
Quantum Racing Team #1 LLC’s 5-year-old gelding Mambo Meister and J D Farm’s 3-year-old Bim Bam turned in half-mile workouts Saturday morning at Calder for trainers Phil Gleaves and David Brownlee, respectively, as the two stakes winners continue preparation for their next starts.
Mambo Meister was timed an easy half-mile in 52 flat as he gets ready for his next start in the $100,000 Memorial Day Handicap (G3) on Mon., May 31. The son of King Cugat won the $100,000 Miami Mile (G3) on turf here last out on opening day, Apr. 25, pushing his career bankroll to $421,000.
Bim Bam went a sharp half in 48 4/5 in his first workout since finishing a game second in the $100,000 Florida Thoroughbred Charities Stakes on closing day at Gulfstream Park on Apr. 24, his first start against older horses. The Florida homebred colt by Deputy Wild Cat won the $125,000 Hallandale Beach Stakes over the Gulfstream course on Feb. 7 over highly-regarded favorite Interactif.