Raven and Cibelli runners score in turf sprint stakes at Tampa
OLDSMAR, Fla.—There was never any doubt.
That seemed to be the consensus for the connections involved with the winners of the Lightning City Stakes and Turf Dash Stakes Feb. 19 at Tampa Bay Downs.
And it was an especially poignant day for trainer/Owner Kerri Raven as the Canadian conditioner, won her first stakes race with a Florida-bred son of Overdriven, Chess Master, with Classic winning jockey Jesus Castanon in the irons, posting a 2 1/2-length victory.
The Oldsmar racetrack is familiar environs for Chess Master who was making his 13th lifetime start at Tampa Bay Downs. The 6-year-old gelding broke his maiden at second asking at the Tampa oval, while in the barn of trainer Baltazar Galvan during his sophomore campaign. Raven claimed Chess Master for $32,000 last January, and the two have enjoyed great success. The victory in the $100,000, 5-furlong Turf Dash Stakes was their seventh together.
“He (Chess Master) was just exploding in his (Castanon’s) hands, he had so much horse, it was just fantastic,” said Raven. “It was just like another notch, another gear.”
It was Raven’s fourth win at Tampa Bay Downs with Chess Master, after a pair of consecutive victories last winter, the gelding made his second start in stakes company, finishing 11th in the Grade Two Sharkertown Stakes at Keeneland last spring. But Raven has been keeping Chess Master mind fresh, and it made a huge difference over the summer, as he scored three wins at Canterbury Park.
“It was about getting his brain good,” said Raven. “He’s always been a sound horse, but he’s always been a fractious horse in the stall, and we just got him happy that way.”
Xy Speed, had Tampa Bay Downs’s leading jockey Samy Camacho up, and is conditioned by the track’s leading trainer, Gerald Bennett, and both horses would sprint for the early lead.
“I just took advantage of my position, I knew my horse wanted to be in front, I gave him a good break, he took me out there right away, so it allowed me to control the pace,” said Castanon. “I knew Bennett’s horse was going to chase me, he was going to have to run faster than my horse. Every time my horse gets company around him, my horse gets a little stronger.”
Xy Speed and The Connector would both take their shots at Chess Master, but like Bobby Fischer being able to see a 15-move sequential pattern in a chess match, Chess Master and Castanon, seemed to possess a spatial perception, one that would propel them to victory.
”He likes the competition,” said Raven., who had been an assistant trainer previously for Rusty Arnold and Paul Buttigieg. “He has a lot of potential. The only thing that I haven’t gotten him to do is ship well and go run somewhere else because he’s a nervous horse in the barn. I was less worried about here because it’s his home turf. He’s the nicest horse I ever had. I couldn’t be happier. He’s such a cool horse. He’s very consistent. “
Payntdembluesaway was sent off as the second choice in the field of 12 horses for the $100,000, 5-fulrong Lightning City Stakes, and the 6-year-old mare by Paynter, owned by All My Hart Racing, Inc., trained by Jane Cibelli, collected her first stakes victory under the confident handling of jockey Pablo Morales, drawing away to win by 3 ¼-lengths.
“She’s just so naturally fast,” said Morales. “The only instructions from Ms. Cibelli was to let her do her own running, don’t send her, don’t take her back, give her a nice long hold and she’ll do the rest. She couldn’t have been more-right.”
Payntdembluiesaway and Senora Roma contested the lead early, but the veteran bay campaigner, seemed right at home and never looked threatened by the field, as she distanced herself from the competition. The well-traveled mare has wins at Monmouth Park, Laurel Park, Gulfstream Park and Gulfstream Park West.
“That was the plan, (that she didn’t need the lead) let her use her natural speed, I wasn’t worried about any other horse, and she responded great,” said Morales. “She was a super good filly the whole time, but in the gate, she was so professional, she didn’t move a hair, and when the gates opened, she just shot out like a rocket. She was running hard the whole way.”