OLDSMAR—It was only a matter of time.
Live Oak Plantation’s Tap It to Win seemed poised to break through. The 4-year-old son of Tapit was multiple graded stakes placed and was coming off a nearly seven-month layoff.
But maybe that’s what he needed because Sunday afternoon, the Mark Casse charge overcame an early bump by runner-up R Mercedes Boy, coasting to a 4 ¼-length victory under the confident handling of jockey Antonio Gallardo in the 6-furlong NYRABETS Sprint Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Patience and timing were variables that played a role in Tap It to Win’s victory, with Gallardo sitting off the pace anticipating when to strike and the bay ridgling was more than up to the challenge when commandeering the lead from R Mercedes Boy.
“I had a lot of horse under me,” said Gallardo “It was a good pace. He was close and did everything so easy. When it was time to go, I asked him a little bit. He opened up very easy.”
In a field that featured several pacesetters, the early fractions were fast and furious. However, the quick early pace seemed to be just what the winner needed. Tap It to Wins’s jockey Antonio Gallardo was more than aware of R Mercedes Boy’s predilection for flashing his early speed but had expected another horse to be up close during the race’s opening stages.
“The four (Hauntedbythemusic), he didn’t break good today, but I went with that horse, number four, he had a lot of speed too,” said Gallardo.
The horse’s placement was also a key component as Gallardo’s patience and resourcefulness made a difference in the outcome.
“I talked to Casse, and he said, ‘He’s doing pretty good, try to put him in the clear,’” said Gallardo. “But when I saw the number one (R Mercedes Boy) starting to lug out early in the race, his jockey couldn’t control him. I said, ‘you know what I’m going to stay here.’”
Tap It to Win’s evolution saw him go from breaking his maiden in his second start as a juvenile at Saratoga, to adding a couple of allowance scores to his resume during his sophomore season with wins at Gulfstream Park and Belmont Park.
He placed second in the Grade One H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga and then third in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs, his last two starts during his 3-year-old campaign. The Florida-bred’s demeanor and equanimity may have helped him conserve his energy for Sunday’s race.
“He was a little bit of a green 2-year-old,” said Jimmy Miranda, Casse Racing assistant trainer. “He came around real, real nice last year. He had a good year and he’s just continued and that’s what we wanted to see. He came up from Gulfstream Park this morning, and the only thing that I can tell you is that he slept all morning back at the receiving barn. He’s very smart and very sharp. He just chilled. He was easy to put the bridle on. He was happy. He never turned a hair. He’s matured very well. He’ll head back to Palm Meadows tonight (Sunday), and we’ll see what he does from there.”
Feature by Ben Baugh
Photo: Tap It to Win, Ben Baugh