By Jim Freer and Barry Unterbrink
Fast Flying Rumor and Catalina Red, two sprinters that have set records at Tampa Bay Downs, will meet for the first time this afternoon.
Their showdown will be in the $75,000 Sprint, a six-furlong dirt race that is one of six stakes races on the annual Florida Cup day card at Tampa Bay Downs. All of the stakes have $75,000 purses and are restricted to Florida-breds.
First post is 12:47 p.m. for the 12-race card. Conditions are listed as fast and firm. According to the Weather Channel there is a zero percent chance of rain in and around Oldsmar, where Tampa Bay Downs is located.
We will be on-site for coverage on our blog.
The third race is the day’s first stakes. It is the Sophomore Turf at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds.
The Sprint is the fifth race with scheduled post of 2:44 p.m. It has seven entrants.
Key questions will be whether Fast Flying Rumor can take an uncontested early lead and then hold off Catalina Red.
Fast Flying Rumor, trained by Gerald Bennett, has won three of his four starts at Tampa Bay this season. Two were at five furlongs on turf and one was six furlongs on dirt.
On Jan. 9 Fast Flying Rumor won the $100,000 Turf Dash in the exceptional time of 55.03 seconds for five furlongs. He won by 4 ¾ lengths over the multiple stakes winner Power Alert.
Bold Thunder set the course record of 54.63 on Jan. 10, 2015.
Fast Flying Rumor, a 4-year-old gelding, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 108 for his Jan. 9 race. That is the highest Beyer figure ever for a race at Tampa Bay Downs.
On Feb. 5 this year at Tampa Bay, Fast Flying Rumor won at six furlongs on dirt in 1:09.83 in an optional claiming race.
In his most recent start, Fast Flying Rumor led in mid stretch but faded and finished fourth in the $100,000 Pelican Stakes, which included non-Florida breds, at Tampa Bay on Feb. 20. None of the top three finishers in that race are in today’s race.
Fast Flying Rumor, the 2-1 morning line favorite, will be ridden by his regular jockey Ronald Allen Jr.
Alfredo Romana, a winner of two optional claiming dirt sprints at Tampa Bay this year, can be expected to battle Fast Flying Rumor for the early lead—along with Wicked Rascal and Good Lord.
A speed duel could help the stalker Catalina Red, the 3-1 second choice in the morning line who is trained by Chad Stewart.
On Dec. 27, 2014 in the Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs, Catalina Red set a track record of 1:22.40 for seven furlongs on dirt. That was his final race as a 2-year-old.
Catalina Red later won the seven furlong Jackson Bend at Gulfstream Park. But in his most recent race he finished seventh and last on Sept. 19 in the six-furlong Gallant Bob Stakes (Grade 3) at Parx Racing in Philadelphia.
Since early last month, Catalina Red has had a series of workouts at the Hunter Farm Training Center in Ocala. And it should be noted that he won the Jackson Bend after a seven-month layoff.
Daniel Centeno, who had been Catalina Red’s regular jockey, rode Alfredo Romana in his two recent wins. He is staying on Alfredo Romana today, and Fernando De La Cruz has the mount on Catalina Red.
Trainer Kaplan to Retire
One reason the Florida Cup card is gaining attention is that it will be Bill Kaplan’s final day as a trainer,
Kaplan, whose stable has been based at Gulfstream Park, is best known for training and being co-owner of Musical Romance. That horse won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., in 2011 and later was voted the winner of that year’s Eclipse Award as Champion Female Sprinter.
Kaplan’s final race will be the eighth at Tampa Bay tomorrow. He will send out Extravagant Kid in the Sophomore at six furlongs on dirt for three-year-olds.
In the sixth race, the Turf Classic, Kaplan has My Point Exactly. In the seventh race, the Sophomore Fillies, he has Chief Attraction.
Of the three, Extravagant Kid probably has the best chance for a victory.