OLDSMAR, FL—The Tampa Bay Downs stakes schedule shifts into full gear next Saturday, Jan. 13, with three stakes highlighting the track’s Skyway Festival Day program.

Newly-turned 3-year-olds of both sexes will command the spotlight in the Pasco for colts and geldings and the Gasparilla for fillies. Both races offer purse money of $125,000 and will be contested at a distance of seven furlongs. Both purses include a $50,000 win bonus for Florida Sire Stakes-eligible runners and a $25,000 win bonus FTBOA-registered Florida-breds presented by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association.

The third stakes is the $50,000 Wayward Lass, a mile-and-a-sixteenth event for fillies and mares, 4-years-olds and older.

The Pasco is expected to feature a pair of standouts in West Saratoga and Book’em Danno. West Saratoga, a colt owned by Harry L. Veruchi and trained by Larry Demeritte, won the Grade 3 Iroquois on Sept. 16 at Churchill Downs. Book’em Danno, a gelding, is a two-time stakes winner and finished a strong second to Where’s Chris in the $150,000 Nashua on Nov. 5 at Aqueduct.

Book’em Danno is owned by Atlantic Six Racing and trained by Derek Ryan.

Others under consideration at press time include trainer Gregg Sacco’s colt Crazy Mason, who finished second to Patriot Spirit in the Inaugural here on Dec. 2; Florida-bred Rathmore, who finished third in the Inaugural for trainer Tom Albertrani; and Florida-bred Secret Lover, who was second to Seminole Chief in the FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes In Reality at Gulfstream on Dec. 2.

Meanwhile, Michael Campbell, the trainer of Patriot Spirit, said he plans to train his colt toward either the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis here on Feb. 10 or the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream. Both are “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points races, offering 20-10-6-4-2 points to the top five finishers toward qualifying for the Run for the Roses on May 4. Both the Sam F. Davis and the Holy Bull are contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth.

“The focus of our attention is to get him into points races so he can earn his way into the Derby,” Campbell said of Patriot Spirit. “Both his sire and dam [Constitution and Mistical Plan] indicate he won’t have a problem with two turns, and he has matured mentally and physically, so we can work now on making his next race a two-turn effort.”

Campbell said owner George Mellon (Mellon Patch, Inc.) turned down an invitation to compete in the Saudi Cup on Feb. 24.

In the Gasparilla, R Harper Rose is expected to carry the banner for Florida-breds after her game second-place finish to Honey Dijon on Dec. 2 at Gulfstream Park in the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Florida Sire Stakes My Dear Girl. She had won each of her three previous starts, including the FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes Susan’s Girl on Oct. 21 at Gulfstream.

R Harper Rose is owned by Averill Racing and Two Eight Racing and trained by Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.

Others currently expected to face the starter in the Gasparilla are Gorgeous Girl, third here on Dec. 20 in a first level, $75,000 optional claiming, owned by Red Oak Stable and trained by Sacco; and Florida-bred Mystic Lake, who was most recently third in the Grade 3 Mazarine at Woodbine. Mystic Lake is owned by C2 Racing Stable and Stefania Farms and trained by Joseph.

Last year’s Gasparilla winner, Opus Forty Two, is among the probables for the Wayward Lass. Owned by Mark B. Grier and trained by Arnaud Delacour, she most recently finished second to Hybrid Eclipse in the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go at Laurel on Nov. 11. She was also second to Florida-bred Foggy Night on July 1 in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks in July.

Her competition is likely to include stakes-placed 4-year-old Dream Concert, owned by James Chicklo and trained by Kathleen O’Connell; Libban, a lightly-raced (3-for-4) 4-year-old owned by C2 Racing Stable and Paul Braverman and trained by Joseph; Magical Lute, a 4-year-old owned by Whitham Thoroughbreds and trained by Ian Wilkes; and Rosie’s Halo, a 5-year-old from the barn of Joseph and trained by Sean Defreitas.

Around the oval: In the ninth race Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding Spikezone broke on top and never looked back, rolling to an eight-length victory from Charging Aero. Spikezone, the 1-2 betting favorite, was ridden by Mychel Sanchez. His time for the six-furlong distance on a good track was 1:10.15.

Spikezone is owned by Troy Johnson, Charles Lo and Jagger, Inc., and trained by Jamie Ness. He was bred in Florida by Bishop Racing Inc.

Apprentice jockey Gabriel Maldonado rode back-to-back winners Saturday. He captured the second race on Living in Style, a 3-year-old filly owned and trained by Juan Arriagada. Maldonado added the third race on La Chica Lateral, a 6-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Castillo Consulting and trained by Victor Barboza, Jr.

Trainer Jose Francisco D’Angelo sent out two winners. He won the fourth race with 4-year-old gelding Midnight Getaway, owned by Bruno Schickedanz and ridden by Antonio Gallardo. D’Angelo added the sixth with Hercules, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Leon King Stable Corp. and ridden by Samy Camacho.

Hercules was claimed from the victory for $5,000 by trainer Steven Cahill for new owner Steve Zeehandelar.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with an eight-race card beginning at 12:35 p.m. The feature is the fourth race, a $54,000, mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance/optional claiming race for older fillies and mares. Molly’s Angel, a 6-year-old mare owned by Pete Mattson and trained by Tim Padilla, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Alonso Quinonez is the jockey.

Return to the Jan. 6 issue of Wire to Wire