Chess Master’s Opening and Endgame Lead to Victory

February 19, 2023

Owner/trainer Kerri Raven (right) and jockey Antonio Gallardo celebrate Chess Master’s victory with connections in the winner’s circle. (Ben Baugh Photo)

Train to Artemus’s destination was the winner’s circle

By Ben Baugh

OLDSMAR, Fla.— A clean break and setting a fast pace, were the perfect openers for Kerri Raven’s Chess Master, as the Florida-bred son of Overdriven repeated as the Turf Dash Stakes winner, Saturday afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs. 

Antonio Gallardo masterfully piloted the winner to victory in the 20th edition of the 5-furlong $100,000 contest. It was the 7-year-old gelding who gave Raven her first stakes win as a trainer, and the classy veteran was making his 40th lifetime start.

The strategy implemented by Raven and the rapid decision-making by Gallardo paid dividends, as the rest of the deep field couldn’t muster a Sicilian Defense to overcome the quick exchanges that would have made Judit Polgar proud. It was the first time Gallardo, who has won five riding titles at Tampa Bay Downs, has ridden Chess Master, and they won by daylight with a 4 ¾-length score. 

“She told me to break well and go,” said Gallardo. “I remember that he won the same race last year, doing the same thing. He felt really good. I had to ask of course to get out of the gate. He took me, he wanted to run. And at the beginning, I thought maybe we were going too fast, but when I encouraged him the first time and he responded, I knew no one would be able to get to me.”

Chess Master continues to evolve as an athlete, maturing with age, as he now travels well, something that he didn’t do when he first came to Raven’s barn. 

“I’m so happy with him…that was the most beautiful race he’s ever run,” said Raven, who also owns Chess Master. “I just love the way he did it today. I’m going to watch this replay a lot.”

Happy connections join Train To Artemus with Paco Lopez up in the winner’s circle. (Ben Baugh Photo)

M and W Stables, LLC’s Train to Artemus moved like a Shen-24, scoring a 2-length victory, in the 20th running of the 5-furlong Lightning City Stakes, the fifth win in her last six starts for trainer Kelly Breen, who claimed the 5-year-old daughter of Tapizar from Saffie Joseph Jr. last summer. The winner was ridden to victory by Paco Lopez.

“She’s a nice filly, she’s done everything right, you couldn’t ask too much more from her; she’s a bit of a firecracker,” said Breen, in a phone call from his winter-base at Gulfstream Park. “She’s a little bit hot-blooded, but everything we’ve done with her has really paid off.”

Breen who conditioned the 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler on Ice, was a little bit worried about the post position. Train to Artemus drew the rail. 

“Paco cut the corner at the quarter pole, and things worked out,” said Breen. “Coming out of the 1-post, they don’t always do that. Paco seemed like he was confident. He got her out of the gate in good order.”

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