HorseracingFLA Staff Report
Promising 2-year-olds of both sexes and turf-loving fillies and mares are set to grab the Tampa Bay Downs spotlight Saturday during the track’s annual Cotillion Festival Day program.
The 10-race card begins at 12:28 p.m.
The day is primarily devoted to 2-year-olds, all of which turn 3 for record-keeping purposes on Jan. 1.
The exception is the 12th edition of the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes, a five-furlong turf sprint that has drawn an overflow field of 14 Thoroughbred females ages 3-and-upward. Only 12 are permitted to start.
The Lightning City is scheduled as Saturday’s ninth race, and is one of three scheduled turf races on a day expected to be cool with plenty of sunshine.
The morning-line favorite for the Lightning City at 7-2 is the 6-year-old mare Joya Real, who is trained by Kathleen Demasi and will be ridden by Jose Ferrer.
Joya Real won her Oldsmar debut in the Lightning City Prep at the same distance on Nov. 28 and has finished in the money in 11 consecutive starts, including a stakes victory at Monmouth Park in August.
In her next start, the $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap at Parx on Sept. 7, Joya Real’s late charge left her two lengths shy of catching 4-year-old Lightning City entrant Richies Sweetheart, who is expected to be on or near the lead from the outset.
The winner of 12 of 25 career starts is trained by Larry Rivelli and will be ridden by E.T. Baird. Richies Sweetheart is the second morning-line choice at 4-1.
Other top contenders include the second and fourth-place finishers in the Lightning City Prep, You Bought Her and Double Secret. They finished 1-2 in last season’s Lightning City Stakes (run in January), with Double Secret winning in gate-to-wire fashion at odds of 30-1 and You Bought Her rallying for second as a 37-1 shot.
The 4-year-old Double Secret is trained by Adolfo Exposito and will be ridden by Erick Rodriguez, while the 5-year-old Florida-bred mare You Bought Her is trained by David Hinsley and will be ridden by Brian Pedroza.
The 3-year old Katie’s Kiss, 9-2 in the morning line, has been a standout this year at Gulfstream Park and the Gulfstream Park West meet (held at Calder).
In her last start, the daughter of star Florida sire Kantharos finished second to the 5-year-old mare Jewel of a Cat in the Millions Turf Sprint Preview at Calder on Nov. 7. They were the only females in the nine-horse field.
Trainer David Fawkes has tabbed Antonio Gallardo, Tampa Bay’s leading jockey, to ride Katie’s Kiss.
Saturday’s stakes offerings begin with the third race, the 37th edition of the $100,000, six-furlong Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The event has attracted nine entrants, with Old Valyria accorded morning-line favorite’s status at odds of 5-2.
Trained by Jamie Attard, with Ronnie Allen, Jr., named to ride, Old Valyria broke her maiden at Woodbine in Toronto by seven lengths in October and was a determined second in her next start.
Both races were on Woodbine’s synthetic Polytrack surface and how that form will translate to the Tampa Bay Downs main track is the big question, but she went well in her Dec. 12 four-furlong dirt workout at Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach.
The second morning-line choice at 3-1 for the Sandpiper is Florida-bred Kandoo, trained by Ralph Nicks and to be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. She is 2-for-4 lifetime and was freshened following a victory in a five-furlong turf race at Gulfstream Park West (Calder) on Oct. 21.
Juvenile colts and geldings will chase glory and the winner’s share of the $100,000 purse in the eighth race, the 31st edition of the Inaugural Stakes at six furlongs.
Based in large measure on his impressive debut performance here Nov. 28 in a five-and-a-half furlong maiden special weight race that resulted in a 10 ¼-length victory, the Efren Loza, Jr.-trained Ishaq is the morning-line favorite at 5-2. Ishaq again will be ridden by Pedro Cotto, Jr.
The second choice among the 11 entrants, the Florida-bred Formal Summation, brings an extra dose of seasoning to the Inaugural. He is 2-for-4, including a victory in the Laurel Futurity in September in a race that was taken off the turf and run on a sloppy track. Trained by Kathleen O’Connell, he will be ridden by Allen.
Li’l Meatball is listed at 4-1 and is coming off a gate-to-wire win in the 6 ½ furlong Juvenile Sprint Preview on Nov. 7 at the Gulfstream Park West meet at Calder. He broke sharply and beat the late-running Fellowship by 1 ¼ lengths.
Li’l Meatball previously finished third in the In Reality and the Affirmed and fourth in the Dr. Fager. Those are the three legs of the annual Florida Sire Stakes Series at Gulfstream.
Li’l Meatball’s only other start was a maiden win at Gulfstream. He is coming into the Inaugural off a pair of bullet workouts at Calder.
A key factor will be whether Li’l Meatball can get a clean break from the rail post with jockey Miguel Vasquez, who has ridden him in all of his races.
Li’l Meatball is owned by George Kerr and trained by David Braddy.
Defending Tampa Bay Downs champion jockey Gallardo rode four winners for the second consecutive performance, raising his meeting-leading total to 19.
Gallardo has ridden 306 winners in 2015, second in North America to Gulfstream Park-based Javier Castellano’s 332
Trainer Gerald Bennett won with both starters on today’s card, giving him four consecutive winners over the last two racing days. Bennett leads the standings with seven victories.