HorseracingFLA Staff Report
There is still one day left in Tampa Bay Downs’s 2015-2016 race meet.
But jockey Antonio Gallardo and trainer Gerald Bennett are clear-cut winners in the competitions for most wins, and Jamie Ness has a three-race lead over his nearest rival in the owner race.
Tampa Bay ended the regular part of its meet on Sunday May 8.
It will end the 91-day meet on June 30, the first day of its fourth annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing,
On July 1, Tampa Bay will begin its 2016-2017 meet. It is tentatively set to resume on Nov. 27.
But it might be without Gallardo. As noted below, he is considering a shift to the tracks in southern California.
On days when it does not have live racing, Tampa Bay Downs is open for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker in The Silks Poker Room and fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility. Details may be found on the Tampa Bay Downs Web site.
Gallardo has 135 wins through Sunday and has won his third straight Tampa Bay jockeys’ championship.
Daniel Centeno, a five-time Tampa Bay champion is second with 98 wins. The next three spots are held by Ronald Allen Jr. with 74, Fernando De La Cruz with 68 and Manoel Cruz with 43.
Gallardo is first in earnings with $1,984,775. Centeno is second with $1,485,531.
Gallardo is a 28-year-old native of Jerez de la Frontera in Cadiz, Spain.
He set the all-time single-season Tampa Bay Downs record in 2014-2015 by riding 147 winners. Then, he went to Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., and set a track record with 161 winners.
Gallardo is returning to Presque Isle Downs for the May 22 opening of its 2016 meeting and is tentatively planning to give the ultra-competitive southern California circuit a try beginning in October. He would be accompanied by his agent, Mike Moran.
“Right now, I think I want to try California,” he told the Tampa Bay Downs media office. “The weather is great, the money is great and it could be an opportunity for me to ride a lot of nice horses.”
Gallardo added: “I should have at least two months to see how my business goes there before I decide whether to come back to Tampa or stay there.”
Bennett has wrapped up the trainers’ championship with 51 wins.
Ness is second with 39, followed by Kathleen O’Connell with 38. Dennis Ward is fourth with 27 wins and Arnaud Delacour is fifth with 24.
Bennett leads in earnings, with his horses winning $831,222. O’Connell is second with $598,500 and Ness is third with $583,167.
In 2014-2015, Bennett appeared to have a stranglehold on the top spot before Ness snatched it away, 46-43, by winning with 28 of his last 68 starters.
But you don’t last more than 40 years in the thoroughbred business without being resilient. The 72-year-old Bennett returned to Oldsmar last November intent on knocking Ness from his accustomed perch and achieved his goal, posting 51 victories.
“I knew we had a lot of horses that had been laid up and freshened, and I thought we had a well-balanced stable for all kinds of conditions,” Bennett said. “We were able to run a lot of horses where they belonged, and it worked out well.”
This is the second Tampa Bay Downs training crown for Bennett, who shared the top spot with Ness during the 2010-2011 meeting with 61 victories apiece.
Bennett’s top horse at the meeting was the 4-year-old gelding Fast Flying Rumor, which he owns with his wife Mary under their Winning Stables banner in partnership with the Midnight Rider outfit of Matt Ferris. Fast Flying Rumor won the $100,000 Turf Dash in January, achieving a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest in track history. Fast Flying Rumor won three times at the meeting.
A native of Springhill, Nova Scotia, Bennett has 3,579 career victories, which is 19th all-time and 11th among active trainers in the United States and Canada.
Jagger Inc., the stable of Jamie Ness and his wife Mandy, leads owners with 15 wins through Sunday.
The family team of Billy, Donna and Justin Hays is second with 12 wins and has a mathematical chance to catch Ness depending on how many horses it sends out on June 30.
Savoy Stable is third with 11 wins. Jason DaCosta and Midwest Thoroughbreds are tied for fourth with ten wins apiece.
Ness for seven years has trained Midwest’s horses at Tampa Bay Downs.
It is ironic that a mid-meet shift in plans by Midwest hurt Ness’s chances to retain the trainer’s title but helped Jagger win the owner’s title.
In late January, Midwest principal Rich Papiese decided to move 26 horses from Tampa Bay Downs to different tracks.
The breakup derailed Ness’s chances to win a 10th consecutive Tampa Bay training championship. But with Midwest gone (after winning the last six Oldsmar owner crowns under the stewardship of Ness), Jagger had an opening to become the meet’s leading owner.
“It’s always nice to win a title, no matter what it is,” Ness said. “This was something we just kind of fell into, but you make your own luck. Good things are going to happen when you do the right thing and work hard.”
Jagger’s top horse in training is the 6-year-old gelding Ghost Hunter, owned in partnership with Triple K Stables. He is 10-for-33 lifetime with career earnings of almost $300,000.
Jagger is the sole owner of Babe’s Ruler, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare which won three races at the current meeting.
Twin Creeks Racing Stable is first in owner earnings with $330,000.
All of that money was won by Destin in victories in the Sam F. Davis (Grade 3) and the Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2). Destin finished sixth in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (Grade 1).
Jagger is second in owner earnings with $211,056.
This will be Tampa Bay’s fourth straight year with racing on June 30 and July 1.
Florida’s fiscal years end on June 30. By racing on the first and last days of each fiscal year and having its regular schedule of more than 40 race days, Tampa Bay is eligible to be a year-round host track for inbound simulcasts of races at thoroughbred tracks in other states.
In that business, Tampa Bay and Gulfstream purchase signals from tracks such as Belmont Park and Churchill Downs and sell them to other pari-mutuels in Florida