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Area horse and dog tracks entice Derby bettors
By DON JENSEN
Published May 7, 2005
OLDSMAR - Will a Tampa Bay Downs stakes winner capture the 131st Kentucky Derby? Can trainer Don Rice win his eighth championship? Will leading rider Jesus Castanon reach 100 victories?
Racing fans will learn the answers this weekend as Tampa Bay Downs puts the finishing touches on its 79th season. The 94-day meet ends Sunday with Fan Appreciation Day.
There are plenty of story lines, but none more compelling than today's Kentucky Derby simulcast from Churchill Downs. Two Tampa Bay Downs stakes winners, Sun King (Tampa Bay Derby) and Andromeda's Hero (Sam F. Davis), are entered. Another area connection is Bellamy Road, a favorite owned by Tampa resident George Steinbrenner. All three are trained by Nick Zito, who will saddle a record-tying five horses in the Derby.
"This is not the first time that Tampa has had two runners in the Derby, but this is the first time that both horses have been stakes-winning horses at Tampa Bay Downs," track vice president and general manager Peter Berube said. "It just reflects the concerted effort that we have made to continually improve the racing program here, and we are very excited to see the outcome."
The Kentucky Derby simulcast highlights today's 13-race card. Tampa Bay Downs' 26-race stakes schedule concludes with the inaugural Lightning City Stakes, a 5-furlong turf test for fillies and mares, and the second annual 11/8-mile Chris Thomas Turf Classic. Both $75,000 races are for 3-year-olds and up.
Kalacan Racing Stable's Whenthedoveflies tops 10 entries in the Lightning City, scheduled as the fifth race with post time at 1:59 p.m. Whenthedoveflies won the Holiday Inn Turf Dash March 19 for trainer Kirk Ziadie.
Two other stakes winners, Joshua and Marnie Whitney's Rizzi Girl (Hillsborough) and Live Oak Plantation's Revved Up (Cherokee River), head the Chris Thomas Turf Classic's 12-horse field. It will be the ninth race with post time at 4:04.
Rice and Castanon are looking forward to this weekend as they close in on individual titles. Rice leads the trainer standings with 32 victories in 166 starts, three in front of defending champion Lynne Scace. Rice has five horses entered today and has been the track's top trainer for seven of the past 10 seasons.
Castanon appears to be a lock to repeat as the leading rider. The Mexico City native has 99 wins in 493 mounts for an 11-victory edge over two-time champion T.D. Houghton. Last year on Kentucky Derby day, 9,161 fans attended. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. with a special noon post time. On Sunday, free grandstand admission will be offered along with reduced concession stand prices.
DERBY LANE: The St. Petersburg track continues to treat greyhounds for kennel cough and has reduced its daily racing program. A 12-race card is being offered Friday and Saturday, with 10-race performances Sunday through Thursday. ... Bahama Mama Greyhounds entered Friday night four wins shy of tying Ryan Farms Kennel's 1999 meet record of 280 victories. Despite winning only one of eight starts in the past week, Bahama Mama has a 44-victory lead over Lester Raines Kennel in the kennel standings. Bahama Mama has four of the meet's top 10 greyhounds, including leader Non Stop Fun with 24 victories. ... Plaza gates open at 10:30 this morning, other gates at 11:30. Admission is free today.