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Deal comes too late but just in time

By BERNIE DICKMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 2001


The strife, apparently, is over at Tampa Bay Downs. Horsemen and management finally agreed on a contract Saturday, which ensures that purses revert to normal levels and simulcasting to and from out-of-state facilities resumes.

The problem? The purse money lost by horsemen who won races after the first three days of the meeting never will be recovered. And the money lost by both sides because of the greatly reduced simulcasting of the past two weeks is history. Unlike rescheduling days because of bad weather, these days are in the books. The deal came just in time for Tuesday's program, traditionally the track's biggest simulcasting day of the week at this time of the year because there usually is no racing at Gulfstream, Aqueduct or Santa Anita. Simulcast players from Canada, New York and Las Vegas in particular have few options for Tuesdays, and Tampa Bay Downs is one. It leads to handles of $3-million or more.

TOO TOUGH TO CALL: The stretch call of Saturday's $50,000 Minaret Stakes was a chart caller's nightmare. In midstretch, nine fillies in the 11-horse field seemingly had a chance to win the 6-furlong race, and veteran chart-caller Doug McCoy had to sort out the positions in seconds. McCoy had Quite Spender half a length in front of Take a Look. Bigcuz, Political Wife, Dazzling Duchess, Lite Medley, Amanda Rules, Dark Ending and Oh Shoot were each a half-length behind the other.

In the final sixteenth, though, Federico Mata and Political Wife mustered up the biggest kick and drew off to score by nearly 2 lengths over Quite Spender, who was a half to the good of Big Cuz.

Political Wife raced four times at Calder before her stakes debut, winning once by 9 lengths. But handicapping the Minaret, it was apparent that any of the 11 fillies could win, because only three had previous stakes experience. Political Wife, a 3-year-old daughter of Dehere, earned $21,000 for her victory, 50 percent more than she had banked in her four other races.

A RARE CHANCE: It isn't often a track announcer gets to inject his wit into a race call because of the name of a horse. Saturday, Tampa announcer Richard Grunder's chance came in the sixth race, in which one of the entrants was a 6-year-old named Pointless.

If Pointless had been on the early lead or in the middle of the pack, it might not have played into Grunder's hands. But Pointless cooperated, sitting last early in the race. After going through the field, on a couple of occasions Grunder announced, "And the trailer is Pointless." DERBY LANE: After reaching an agreement with Pompano Park, harness racing will return as part of the Derby Lane simulcast menu that includes the Meadowlands, Yonkers and Northfield.

Derby Lane concluded its 76th opener with Saturday's Inaugural Stakes. The winner, D's Jasmine of Charter Kennel, was the youngest greyhound in the field and one of two females in the race.

It was the first stakes victory at Derby Lane for Charter Kennel, which has made several stakes finals. The kennel, in its sixth season, has had much luck with young stars. At Tampa in 1996, Village Queen won the Juvenile Stakes. In 1998, Victorian Surge won the Speed Classic and Extreme Heat was the track champ.

Charter was top kennel at Tampa in 1997 and 1998 and at Derby Lane in 1998. Bounce Back, Rocket Rodney, Polynice and Tempo Fire King are among its top runners.

D's Jasmine ran the fastest time last week (31.05 seconds) in her Wednesday matinee win. Abernathy's N's Big Ed was the fastest distance runner with 38.08. Both greyhounds will be featured in Wednesday's semifinal rounds for the All-Star Kennel Preview. First runners from each heat advance to Saturday night's final.

The track remains in search of a name for the mechanical lure that has run nameless for more than 75 years. The name the lure contest is open to anyone age 18 or older. "We are looking for a unique name, not one that is used by another track," general manager Vey Weaver, said. Submit as many names as you wish by entering at the track, by mail or via internet. For more information, call (727) 812-3339.

- Correspondent Vera Filipelli contributed to this report.

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