OLDSMAR, FL. – If Mariangelys Almedina had been driving a car instead of piloting a Thoroughbred racehorse at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, she would have likely been pulled over and asked to show her license.

But the youthful-looking apprentice steered a steady and winning course in the sixth race, triumphing in virtual gate-to-wire fashion on 4-year-old filly Whatchamacall for owner Beverly Sierra and trained Xavier A. Rivera.

Even though it was her second career victory – she’d won with her first career mount, Big Rinne, on Jan. 1 at Camarero in Canovanas near her hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico – a few of the 22-year-old’s Oldsmar rivals initiated her in traditional racetrack style with buckets of water, shaving cream and other tokens of esteem.

All that came after she posed along the rail for pictures with numerous fans eager to join in her celebration.

Almedina spread around the credit after her (second) milestone victory, thanking trainers Rivera, Kevin Rice, and Teresa Connelly for helping her launch her business at Tampa Bay Downs. Her elation was evident, but even though she kept smiling it was easy to sense an athlete’s heart pumping beneath her fresh-faced appearance.

Almedina wasn’t the only competitor to win for the first time Saturday. In the fourth race, Abraham Gardea earned his first training victory with Ain’t Noncents, a 5-year-old mare owned by his father, Francisco Gardea. Jorge Urdaneta was the jockey.

Even when you don’t cash a bet, they’re the kind of feel-good stories that keep you coming back.

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