Venezuelan-born jockeys capture both 3-year-old stakes races Tampa Bay Downs

January 16, 2022

OLDSMAR, Fla.– It was as if it was out of a scene from the musical Damn Yankees, with Markhamian’s courageous effort in the 24th edition of the 7-furlong, $125,000 Pasco Stakes Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. You gotta have heart. 

Santa Rosa Racing Stable’s Sergio Ripamonti, Markhamian’s breeder and owner, placed high praise on the sophomore colt’s performance, a 2 1/2-length victory that saw him turn back the highly regarded Provocateur in capturing the added money event. Jockey Marcos Meneses was in from his home base at Gulfstream Park and piloted the son of Social Inclusion to victory. Markhamian demonstrated his character, shifting into another gear, when it seemed he was running out of steam. The winner is conditioned by Juan Avila.

“I felt he was done on the turn. he has a lot of heart,” said Ripamonti. “He ducked in, and Meneses did a great job urging him. He said on the turn, they were pressuring him, and he was waiting. You have to have the heart and the guts, and he drew away at the end. It was exciting. Maybe we’ll come back in four weeks for the Sam F. Davis. 

Meneses is no stranger to stakes victories, having won the Grade Three Hal’s Hope with Identifier, and scoring added money wins with Ceci Valentina and Sweetontheladies, but Saturday’s Pasco took on added meaning for the 35-year-old journeyman jockey. The 7-furlong distance seemed to fit Markhamian, whose previous two starts had been at 6 ½-furlongs, with Meneses up both times. The rider has bonded with his mount, and their recent success may serve as a harbinger going forward with greater expectations on the horizon, according to Ripamonti. 

Outfoxed (Benjamin Baugh Photo)

“I want to say hello to everyone in Tampa,” said Meneses. “Thanks to everyone for helping me. Thanks to the owner. Thanks to the trainer. The horse did everything perfect. He fought with the other horses all the way. I’m very happy with that… I know that he’s a good horse for sure…I had the horse in the stretch, the last furlong. That makes the difference. This is my first stakes here (at Tampa Bay Downs).”

Markhamian looked the part of a winner in the paddock prior to the contest’s start and was sent off as the fourth choice in the wagering in the field of seven horses. 

“The horse was coming into the race fantastic, great shape, very well hydrated, great skin color, skin tone, everything,” said Ripamonti. “The horse came in super ready, and he showed it today. Meneses did a great job, when he sent the horse, he responded. I’m very happy.”

The combination of Samy Camacho and LNJ Foxwoods Outfoxed, cleverly outmaneuvered the competition to win the $125,000, 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The Bill Mott charge turned in a performance that would have made Jose Gaspar and the crew of the Floriblanca proud, as Camacho and Outfoxed went four-wide to win by ¾-length. However, it was no surprise to Camacho, who seemed self-assured in his horse’s ability going into the race. 

“I felt like I had the best horse in the race.” said Camacho. “I have a lot of trust in my horses. I have a lot of confidence in myself. As Billy Mott said, she doesn’t have speed, so I put her in the middle of the pack. That’s what I did. I broke, relaxed, and when I saw the other horses putting pressure, I did my work too, and she responded and won.”

The daughter of Valiant Minister made her sophomore debut a winning one, and seemed well-suited for 7-furlongs, having won twice previously going longer and putting up some impressive numbers. 

“I knew that I had the best horse in the race,” said Camacho. “I didn’t worry too much about Devine Charger and the eight horse (Strategic Bird). It looked like both horses run better at 6-furlongs. I thought I had the best horse for the distance. The best Beyer (speed figure) my horse achieved was a 95 at Gulfstream Park, when she won going seven-eighths. I feel great. Every time I ride for trainers like Billy (Mott), Chad Brown or Christophe Clement, I feel powerful.”

Camacho finds himself locked in a tight battle for the jockey championship with Pablo Morales and Antonio Gallardo. The defending champion and native of Caracas, Venezuela, has enjoyed a successful week, with hat tricks on consecutive days, Jan. 12 and 14, and then two winners Saturday. He finds himself in good position to win his third riding title at Tampa Bay Downs, thanks in part to his agent Michael Moran. 

“I started a little bit slowly (at the current meet), and I won races, one or two races a week, the horses were coming off of a layoff and needed a race,” said Camacho. “After last Sunday, I said I have to do my job because I want to be on top. My agent, he does good, he’s the best, and he put me on seven horses today for a lot of top trainers.” 

Featured Photo:Markhamian (Benjamin Baugh Photo)

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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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