Downs to Derby path well traveled

Two horses with ties to Tampa Bay Downs are ready to run.

By DON JENSEN, Times Correspondent
Published May 5, 2007

OLDSMAR - Allison De Luca has completed her job of bringing closure to Tampa Bay Downs' 81st season of live thoroughbred racing.

The track's first-year racing secretary has drawn entries for today's 13-race program and Sunday's 12-race finale on Fan Appreciation Day that wraps up the 94-day meet. But before she leaves for her hometown of Louisville, Ky., De Luca would like to see something else come to an end - the Downs' drought of never having a Kentucky Derby champion with local ties.

Grade III Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense and Sam F. Davis winner Any Given Saturday can change that today at Churchill Downs.

"It would be tremendous if one of them could win it, " De Luca said. "Many fans may have seen both horses run here, and now they will be able to watch them again. The first time they met (Tampa Bay Derby), I remember standing on the tarmac next to a trainer, not knowing which horse had won. It was an unbelievable finish (Street Sense won by a nose)."

This marks the fourth consecutive season that at least two horses with Downs ties are entered in the Derby, including an all-time high of four last year. Bluegrass Cat (2006) and Menifee (1999) have the best Derby finishes of horses to run at Oldsmar, second place.

De Luca has put together a solid card today. The $75, 000 Chris Thomas Turf Classic and $50,000 Lightning City Stakes conclude the 26-race stakes program, and six of the 13 races are on turf.

Live Oak Plantation's Revved Up returns to defend his title in the Chris Thomas, a 11/8-mile turf test featuring 11 older horses. Trained by Christophe Clement, the 9-year-old Florida-bred gelded son by Sultry Song became a millionaire in last year's event and seeks his 18th victory in 37 races. He starts from the No. 7 post with Jose Velez Jr. aboard. The rest of the field in post position order: Green Lemon, Classic Moon, Therecomesatiger, Puppeteer, Fizzy Pop, Ecru Egret, Final Prophecy, Ballonenostrikes, Approved by Dylan and Electric Light. The Chris Thomas is Race 9 with post time at approximately 4:07 p.m.

In the Lightning City Stakes, Bucky's Prayer is the morning-line 9-5 favorite in the 5-furlong turf dash for older fillies and mares. Owned by Winning Stables and trained by Gerald Bennett, Bucky's Prayer is trying to win for the first time in 10 months with Luis Gonzalez in the irons. The 5-year-old Michigan-bred mare by Broad Brush has won six of 12 starts with a bankroll of $113, 687. She drew the No. 2 post in the six-horse field. Other rivals in post position order: Cierra's Junebug, Saoirse Cat, Mohegan Sky, Zooming By and Brushed Bayou. Post time for the Lightning City in Race 7 is approximately 3.

Leading jockey Daniel Centeno has five mounts today in his final activity at the Downs. He has clinched his first career title with 125 victories and purse earnings of $1, 641, 597, track records. The trainer championship is going down to the wire with Lynne Scace and Jamie Ness tied for the lead with 35 victories apiece. Both conditioners have entered six horses over the final two days.

A total of 10, 106 fans attended the Downs for the 2006 Derby. Simulcast of the Derby will be available at the Downs, Tampa Greyhound Track and Derby Lane in St. Petersburg.

GREYHOUNDS: The first of four qualifying rounds for the Gold Trophy Juvenile Stakes begins tonight in Races 4, 6, 8 10 at Derby Lane. The 550-yard final is May 19. ... A total of 169 dogs were sold for $1, 572, 450 last week at the National Greyhound Association spring meet in Abilene, Kan. The purchase total was a spring-meet record.