Narrow Margins Make Sweet Music in Skyway Festival

January 15, 2023

Zydeceaux takes the Pasco (Ben Baugh)

Tap Dance Fever, Opus Forty Two and Zydeceaux score stakes wins at Tampa

By Ben Baugh

OLDSMAR, Fla.— A head, a neck, and a nose decided the three stakes races Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at Tampa Bay Downs.

It was the Florida-bred Zydeceaux who captured the 25th running of the $125,000 7-furlong Pasco Stakes for 3-year-olds. The consistent son of Cajun Breeze started from the extreme outside post, but that was far from a handicap as the Ramon Minguet charge went to the front early and was able to hold off the hard-charging favorite Champions Dream. Jockey Samuel Marin piloted the 3-year-old bay gelding to victory. It was Minguet’s first stakes win at Tampa Bay Downs.

The conditioner was pleased with the Ocala Breeders’ Sales graduate’s victory, acknowledging that he would be receiving some postrace peppermints. Minguet said it was his plan to have Zydeceaux on the lead. The winner is owned by Stud Carmen Christina, LLC.

“He’s a good horse, an excellent horse,” said Minguet, who hails from Venezuela and is based at Gulfstream Park. “He’s very fast.”

It’s Minguet’s belief that Zydeceaux is capable of going farther, and that he may be pointed to the Sam F. Davis Stakes (Gr. 3) at Tampa Bay Downs next month.

Tap Dance Fever (outside) battles to win the Wayward Lass (Ben Baugh)

It was as if veteran jockey J.C. Ferrer was channeling Fayard and Harold Nichols as the percussion made by Tap Dance Fever enabled the 5-year-old mare to win the 39th running of the 1 1/16-mile Wayward Lass Stakes by a head.

The Gerald Bennett charge collared the lead in deep stretch from a game Pass the Champagne. It was the daughter of Tapiture’s first stakes victory in the 20 times she’s gone postward. The winner is owned by the partnership of J.P.G. 2, LLC, Mr. Pug, LLC, Winning Stables, Inc. and Mary K. Thomas.

“A head bob finish it came out our way, that’s the way racing goes sometimes,” said Bennett. “All these boys were putting so much weight on her, I quit hollering. When he (Ferrer) breezed her last week, he told me she was better than she was for the last race. She’s come into hand off her last win (an allowance score on Dec. 17, 2022). He said she’s even better going into this race.”

A change in equipment, a respite from the races, and some time to be a horse played a large role in the mare’s successful return to the races, after some untoward luck this summer.

“She was flipping her palate on us, and since we added the tongue tie, it made a big change in her (something that was done a couple of races back),” said Bennett. “When she ran at Colonial, the horse flipped in the gate next to her…the leg came over and jerry-corked her right in her pastern. Really bad, and we had to give her all that time. That’s when she finished fourth in that race (Sept. 6, 2022) over in Colonial. She took a long time to heal and thank God she’s back on track.

Perfect timing, a confident ride, and the character and heart of a pair of athletes, human and equine, were showcased in the 39th running of the $125,000 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Opus Forty Two (inside) a winner by a nose (Ben Baugh)

Opus Forty Two held off a determined Charlie’s Wish, winning by a nose. Tampa Bay Downs’ all-time leading jockey by number of wins, Daniel Centeno, guided the daughter of Mendelssohn to victory. Arnaud Delacour trains the winner, who races in the silks of Mark Grier.

It was the fourth start for the lightly raced filly, who had broken her maiden last time out, which was her first race on the dirt. All of the other entries in the race had at least one previous start in stakes company.

“She needed to run against better horses,” said Delacour. “She did it very nicely when she won, of course she didn’t beat the same category of horses (in her last race). She was kind of hanging because she ended up in front alone. We were not quite sure that she had the level but today she proved that she did. She came with a lot of run. Danny rode a great ride. He moved at the right time, and he didn’t think twice. It was a beautiful ride.”

The filly took command in upper stretch and repulsed the bid of Charlie’s Wish, who came to her outside, to get up at the wire.

“I worked her last week, she worked really good,” said Centeno. “I told him when she won last time, to maybe stretch her out, she can do better. 7-fulrongs the first time (she broke her maiden going 6-furlongs), she broke really sharp, I was in the middle, I wanted to get her relaxed and save her for the end, and then she’s going to give me a lot. And finally, I took her back, she relaxed, and I took her outside, and turning for home she was fire to the wire.”

Opus Forty Two appears to being growing in confidence, and getting better with time. Changing surfaces also seemed to agree with the filly.

“I saw it coming, I was waiting for the wire, she was getting a little tired too,” said Centeno. “When we passed the wire, it was so close, I didn’t know who won the race. She improved from her last race, first time on the dirt over the track. She likes the track. She ran her first two times on the grass.”

Contributing Authors

Ben Baugh

Ben Baugh has been writing about Thoroughbred racing for more than 25 years. A past winner of the Raleigh Burroughs Award, his work has appeared...

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