By HorseRacingFLA Staff
Saturday, Feb.21, 8:00 a.m. — Graded stakes-winning Florida-bred mares R Free Roll and Wildcat Lily head the field at Tampa Bay Downs for today’s $50,000 Minaret Stakes, at six furlongs on dirt for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up.
The “Oldsmar Oval” will have eleven races, with first post at 12:40 p.m. The Minaret is the tenth race with scheduled post time of 5:10 p.m.
The Minaret has a field of 14, with 5-year-old R Free Roll likely to be the post-time favorite. She is 7-for-19 lifetime with five stakes victories, including a win in last July’s six-furlong Honorable Miss Handicap (Grade 3) at Saratoga in 1:10.12 on a sloppy track.
R Free Roll is trained by Kirk Ziadie and will be ridden by leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo. She will make her 2015 debut in the Minaret.
Wildcat Lily, also a 5-year-old, is trained by Enrique A. Sanchez, She is posted her biggest victory in the 2013 Azalea Stakes (Grade 3) at Calder at six furlongs. At that time, she was trained by Manuel Azpurua.
Wildcat Lily followed up that victory with runner-up performances in the Prioress Stakes and Test Stakes, both Grade 1 at Saratoga. She did not win in six 4-year-old starts while competing primarily in stakes company.
But she appeared to be in top form on Feb. 5 when capturing a starter/$35,000 optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park by nine 9 ½ lengths.
Wildcat Lily is scheduled to be ridden by Carlos Marquez, Jr.
Other top Minaret contenders include 8-year-old Risky Rachel, a six-time stakes winner who captured last year’s Minaret and Manatee Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs for breeder-owner Sanford Bacon, and Nesso, winner of the 2014 Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Saturday’s ninth race, a conditional allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event for older fillies and mares going a mile on the turf, boasts several stakes-quality runners among its ten entrants.
Trainer Tom Proctor will send out the 4-year-olds Please Explain and Ceisteach, the latter the morning-line favorite at 3-1. Please Explain will be ridden by Gary Boulanger while Ceisteach has the services of Rosemary Homeister, Jr.
The two horses have different owners and are not a betting entry
Please Explain won last year’s Suncoast Stakes on the dirt track at Tampa Bay Downs, but has been idle since a fourth-place finish last August in an allowance/optional claiming event on the grass at Arlington Park near Chicago.
Ceisteach, bred in Ireland, won her North American debut last June on the turf at Arlington. Today’s race is her first in 2015.
Looking ahead. Reserved seats are available for the March 7 Festival Day card, featuring the 35th running of the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) for 3-year-olds. The race is part of Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points points series.
Also on tap are a pair of Grade 3 turf stakes – the $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies and the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares – and the $60,000 Challenger Stakes for older males.
For information on seating, call the Admissions Department at (813) 855-4401.