Tampa Bay Downs hopes for boost with Haskell

Published August 5, 2006

Changing trains on her way to Monmouth Park on Thursday afternoon, Margo Flynn walked briskly with cell phone in hand, talking about the Grade I Haskell Invitational.

"It should be quite a race," said Flynn, Tampa Bay Downs vice president of marketing and publicity. "Several of the horses did very well at our track earlier this year."

The Haskell, a $1-million race for 3-year-olds, will cap an interesting weekend for area thoroughbred racing fans.

The results could boost Tampa Bay Downs' graded stakes program.

While the Tampa Bay Derby and Hillsborough Stakes, both Grade III events, rate as the Oldsmar track's only graded races, Flynn said hopes are high it will receive additional graded status, led by the Sam F. Davis race and the Florida Oaks. The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association's American Graded Stakes Committee meets annually to evaluate and affirm the quality of races.

Six stakes winners from Tampa's 2005-06 meet are slated to compete this weekend, highlighted by the Haskell in Oceanport, N.J., where four of the nine starters have Tampa connections. Bluegrass Cat (Sam F. Davis winner and runnerup in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes), Deputy Glitters (Tampa Bay Derby and Ohio Derby champion), Little Cliff (fourth in Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby) and Electrifying (Ocala Breeders' Sale race winner) are entered in the 11/8-mile race.

The Florida Oaks has been put on the graded radar by Bushfire. Since winning the Oaks on March 18, Bushfire has captured three Grade I races: Mother Goose (July 1) and Acorn (June 10), both at Belmont Park, and Ashland (April 8) at Keeneland. The next race for the 3-year-old filly could be the Alabama Stakes on Aug. 19 at Saratoga.

Other Tampa stakes winners are in action today. At Arlington Park, Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup winner Fort Prado is entered in the $150,000 Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup Mile Handicap. Tampa training champion Kirk Ziadie saddles Lightning City Stakes winner Jewels N Gems and multiple stakes champion Whenthedoveflies in the $250,000 Distaff Turf Championship at Calder Race Course.

At Saratoga, Sandpiper Stakes winner Misty Rosette runs in the Grade I, $250,000 Test Stakes. Sun King, winner of the 2005 Tampa Bay Derby, also goes to the post at Saratoga for the Grade I, $750,000 Whitney Handicap.

MORE HORSES: Flynn said Tampa is expected to announce a new racing secretary within the next two weeks. John Morrissey vacated the position in May.

greyhounds: LaRosa Enterprises, which shared the 2005 kennel championship with McAllister Kennels, is on top again in the win standings at Tampa Greyhound Track. LaRosa carried a 55-48 lead over Cal Holland entering Friday. Kaias Vijas has five wins to pace LaRosa, which registered at least one victory on 12 consecutive performances from July 22-30. ... All-American Joe Hearns of Floyd & Porter leads all greyhounds with seven victories from eight starts. He was Tampa's 2005 win leader. ... Magic City Kennel owner Randy Finegan said Extruding Dream is expected to return soon. He has started only once since setting the Derby Lane meet win record June 30. "We just decided he needed a little break," Finegan said. "He'll be back on the track within two weeks." Two stakes races are in Extruding Dream's future: $15,000 Tampa Shootout on Sept. 9 and $60,000 American Derby at Lincoln (R.I.) on Oct. 28. Shameless Dream, his brother and the second-leading winner at Derby Lane, is expected to resume racing next week. He has been sidelined since May 31 with a hip injury.