OLDSMAR, Fla. (March 7, 2009) Fierce Wind, victor of the 2008 running of the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, captured the 18th rendition of the $65,000 Challenger Stakes today, running the 1 1/16 miles over the main track in 1:45.01. Fierce Wind is owned by Halsey Minor’s Minor Stable, is trained by William Phipps and was ridden to victory by Tampa’s leading rider Daniel Centeno.

Fierce Wind broke alertly, settled behind early leaders Fearless Vision and Paradise Dancer, and swept to the lead in final strides to win by a neck. Fearless Vision was second and Paradise Dancer rounded out the trifecta, which yielded $47.40 from a $2 wager.

Trainer William Phipps is undefeated in five starts over the Oldsmar oval for the current meet. He attributes this to, “Lots of luck, a fine jockey and very patient owners.” Phipps said of Fierce Wind’s race, “Halsey Minor, the owner, allowed up to give him a lot of time that he needed after his first race back after a 10 month layoff. I think that made a big difference. He trains on a deep surface at Payson Park, which mirrors the track here and gets the horse pretty fit. So, we weren’t too worried coming over to Tampa running on a deep track. He’s a horse with a huge heart and he has a very patient owner, and Daniel (Centeno) is a fine, fine rider.”

Phipps added that while he’s unsure where Fierce Wind will run next, the future is bright. “We’re taking it one day at a time, but I imagine from here he’ll probably be looking at graded company somewhere, and the sky’s the limit. We’re just easing him back, and we’ll hopefully work our way back to the big races.”

Jockey Daniel Centeno added, “I was very confident in this horse after we did so well in his first race here. Mr. Phipps told me the colt had been training very well and thought he would do well again today. Mr. Phipps and I talked about the race this morning and we figured to be wide early and we thought that I could get him to relax and wait on the leaders, being wide wouldn’t hurt him. We got shuffled back in the last turn but I knew I had a lot of horse and that if I could get clear he could still win. He put in a big run in the stretch and all I had to do was keep him straight getting past the leader. ”

Finish Lines…Past leading Tampa trainer Kirk Ziadie escorted two of his charges to the Winner’s Circle today; the conditioner has now recorded 33 wins in the current meet. Ziadie got his first win of the day with R Vicarious Girl, a five-year-old Vicar mare carrying the colors of leading owner Richard N. Averill and ridden by second leading rider Rosemary Homeister, Jr. Ziadie’s second win came with Sweet Yuliana, a three-year-old Sweetsouthernsait filly bred in Florida by Ocala Stud Farm, ridden by Andrew Ramgeet and owned by Richard Esquivel.

Please note that Tampa Bay Downs will switch its dark days from Wednesdays to Thursdays mid-month beginning on March 19th; Mondays at the Oldsmar oval will also be open for only poker, golf and simulcast racing throughout the month.