Edited Tampa Bay Release – Two $100,000 stakes races for 2-year-olds and the start of the annual “10 Days of Festivus Challenge” Handicapping Contest highlight Saturday’s racing action at Tampa Bay Downs.
The Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and the Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-old males are part of a 10-race Cotillion Festival Day program devoted exclusively to 2-year-olds. All are slated to turn 3 on Jan. 1, per horse racing rules.
The Sandpiper, scheduled as the ninth race, has attracted 13 fillies, including rhe Gerald Bennett-trained Striking Chrome. An impressive maiden winner on Oct. 12 at Delaware Park, she is by 2014 Kentucky Derby winner and two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome.
A small but select field of six colts and geldings will compete in the Inaugural, which is the third race. Among the likely contenders are stakes winners Poppy’s Pride, trained by Michael Yates, and Arrest Me Red, conditioned by Arnaud Delacour.
In addition to the stakes action, fans are encouraged to pit their handicapping skills against horse players from across the country in the annual “10 Days of Festivus Challenge.”.There is no charge to enter.
All wagers are mythical and players will be required to make mythical win-place-show wagers on their selections each day. The online contest, which runs through Dec. 24, awards $1,000 to the winner and $500 to the runner-up.
Each entrant gets a free lifeline to start and the chance to purchase additional lifelines during the contest. Two lifelines can also be purchased upon sign-up for $5 each. Past participants in the “10 Days of Festivus Challenge” must establish a new account.
For a full set of rules and to register, visit www.festivuschallengereturns.com on the Internet.
Morales headed to Big Apple. Pablo Morales, who first rode in New York in 2005 as a 17-year-old apprentice jockey, will move his tack to Aqueduct after today’s card.
Aqueduct’s winter meeting runs from Dec. 10-March 28. Morales, who leaves Tampa on Friday, will be subjected to COVID-19 testing and a period of isolation before he begins riding again.
Morales had one mount here today, finishing fourth in the eighth race on Mizzen Air.
Morales, who is represented at Tampa Bay Downs and at Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania by agent Paula Bacon, will team with agent Mike Sellitto in New York. He will be reuniting with his brothers Pedro and Renzo, both of whom are exercise riders. “I’ll be living with Pedro, and Renzo will be my valet,” Morales said.
The 32-year-old Morales made the decision to switch bases after riding four winners at Aqueduct over a three-day span in early November, a taste of success that came two weeks after earning his sixth riding title at Presque Isle Downs with 97 victories, more than twice the runner-up total.
Morales, who rode in New York from 2005-2009 and again for parts of 2012, 2013 and 2014, first competed at Tampa Bay Downs during the 2009-2010 meeting. He recorded career victory No. 2,000 here on June 24 aboard Sanguine for trainer Jonathan Thomas. Morales won the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here in 2019 on Well Defined for trainer Kathleen O’Connell.
New York’s exorbitant purse structure makes it one of the sport’s most desirable destinations for jockeys, even in winter, and Morales is eager to take advantage. “I think I’m a different rider now,” said Morales, who rode 200 or more winners three consecutive years from 2017-2019. “I’m more experienced and more mature, and while I still have to prove myself, I’m going there with more confidence.”
A big part of him will miss Tampa Bay Downs and the people, especially his long-time agent.
“One of the hardest things in making this decision to go to New York is I hated the fact I had to separate from my agent, Paula. I credit our success to working together as a team and the fact we have a great relationship,” Morales said. “We both agreed this is probably the right move to make at this time and that we would hook back up for the summer” (at Presque Isle Downs).
“My family is here and I like Tampa a lot, but if there was ever a time to take this opportunity, this is it,” he added. “Hopefully I’ll have a good season and will get noticed by more people. Every move I make is to support my family (wife Erin and children Sophia and Camilo).”
Morales said he plans to go back to Presque Isle Downs next spring to defend his title.
Around the oval. Samy Camacho rode four winners today. In the first race, he was aboard Minewellreceived, a 3-year-old filly, for owners Hugo Bracho and Dormellito Stud and trainer Antonio Machado.
Camacho won the second race on Mystic Link, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Charles Nielsen and trained by Jon Arnett. Mystic Link was claimed for $10,000 by trainer Chandradat Goberdhan for new owner Karina McDonald.
Camacho next won the sixth race on Recorder, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Richard Lueck and trained by Arnett. The rider capped his big day in the eighth with Russian Roulette, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Happy Tenth Stable and trained by Tony Wilson.
Nominations have been released for two stakes races scheduled Dec. 12. The $100,000-guaranteed Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes, for colts and geldings 3-years-old and upward, has drawn 20 nominations, while the $100,000-guaranteed FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes for fillies and mares 3-and-upward has drawn 22 nominations.
Both races are for FTBOA-registered Florida-breds, sired by an FTBOA-registered Florida stallion, having paid all Florida Sire Stakes eligibility fees. Both are scheduled at a distance of 7 furlongs.