By Monique Welch
Gerald Bennett was the leading trainer at Tampa Bay Downs last season, and Saturday he reminded everyone of his capability by winning both the Inaugural Stakes and the Sandpiper Stakes.
Chance of Luck won the Inaugural at six furlongs on dirt for 2-year-old males. R Angel Katelyn won the Sandpiper at six furlongs on dirt for 2-year-old fillies.
(Photo on home page is R Angel Katelyn. courtesy of Tampa Bay Downs)
Those were the first two stakes races of the 2016-2017 meet at Tampa Bay Downs. They were run on Cotillion Festival Day, when all ten races were for 2-year-olds.
The seventh race was the 32nd running of the Inaugural Stakes and the ninth race was the 38th running of the Sandpiper. Both had a guaranteed purse of $100,000.
Bennett’s first horse to get the job done was the gray Kentucky-bred Chance of Luck, who beat Don’t Come Knockin by a neck in 1:10.84.
Chance of Luck was ridden by Erick Rodriguez and at 7-2 was the second betting choice in an eight-horse field.
He took the lead after a half mile, expanded it to 2 1/2 lengths in mid-stretch and held on to edge the late-running Don’t Come Knockin.
Albin Jimenez rode the 15-1 shot Don’t Come Knockin for trainer Angel Rodriguez.
Triumphant Joy, trained by Bennett, slipped at the start and rallied to come in third–2 1/2 lengths behind the top two finishers. He was sent off at 15-1 and was ridden by Ronald Allen Jr.
Obvious One, the 7-10 favorite, faded to finish fifth after pressing the pace. He came in with wins in his first two starts, both at Thistledown in Ohio.
Bennett knew of the potential of Chance of Luck to be a contender, and also mentioned Triumphant Joy.
“I thought my other horse would push the pace more so he can relax more, but he still came in third,” he said. “He slipped right out of the ground there at the gate.”
After this impressive win, Bennett plans to guide Chance of Luck to the $100,000, 7-furlong Pasco Stakes to take place on Jan. 21 at Tampa Bay Downs.
He added: “Chance of Luck for the Tampa Bay Derby.”
The $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) will be run March 11 at 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Tampa Bay Downs. It is a major annual prep for the Kentucky Derby.
Bennett feels very confident in the future of Chance of Luck, being that the Inaugural was only his second start. He won his debut on Oct. 28, at seven furlongs on dirt at Laurel Park in Laurel, Md. J J Brevan Stable owns Chance Luck.
In the Sandpiper, Bennett struck again with R Angel Katelyn who was the 3-2 favorite.
The Florida-bred R Angel Katelyn came in with momentum from a win in her last race, at the Gulfstream Park West meet at Calder on Nov. 12. That was in the Juvenile Fillies Sprint at 6 ½ furlongs on dirt.
Edwin Gonzalez, a newcomer to Tampa Bay Downs, rode R Angel Katelyn to the win in the Sandpiper in 1:10.67. She won by 3 ½ lengths over Jumby Bay who is trained by Todd Pletcher.
Bennett said he told Gonzalez to let R Angel Katelyn do her thing, break her and let her loose. That is exactly what Gonzalez did.
Gonzalez said he had a virtually worry free trip. Bennett said R Angel Katelyn is a very versatile horse, and to be so young she has the game down.
After five racing days, Bennett leads Tampa Bay Downs trainers with six wins and Chad Stewart is in second place with three
Tampa Bay Downs will resume racing on Wednesday with nine races and first post of 12:25 p.m.
The Oldsmar track’s next stakes race will be the $100,000 Lightning City on Saturday Dec. 17. It will be five furlongs on turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.