12/20/2010 1:16PM

Bennett's barn off to a fast start at Tampa


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Gerald Bennett’s stable had a bit of an off meeting here at Tampa Bay Downs last season, but he wasted little time letting the competition and bettors know his barn will be a force this season as he sent out four winners through last Saturday’s program to take the early lead in the trainer standings.

Bennett sent out Bipolar Express ($6.80) to take the fourth race Wednesday and then came back one race later to win with first-time starter Loen ($11.40). He returned Friday to saddle Ravoionetta ($4.80) in a maiden-claiming sprint, then sent out Jr’s Exchange ($9) to capture the five-furlong turf feature in 56.01 seconds over Macho Comacho, a horse trained by one of his main rivals for leading trainer, Jamie Ness.

Although Bennettt was shut out with five starters on Saturday’s program, he was still pleased with his early successs and hopes the good fortune will continue through the meeting.

“We were lucky the first week, and I think we’ve got a stronger overall group of horses than we had here last season,” Bennett said. “We’ve got a full barn here with others on several farms and we’re also optimistic about some of our young horses.”

The fact that Bennett won with a claimer, two maidens, and an allowance runner would give an early indication there is good mix of different classes of runners in the barn.

“We do have runners up and down the class ladder,” Bennett said. “We’re not overloaded in one spot or another, and you’ve got to have that to be successful, because you may have a hard time getting races to fill for some types, so you have to adapt and improvise from time to time.”

While not making any predictions about the rest of the meeting, Bennett did seem cautiously optimistic about the future.

“Like I said, we’ve got a good mix over there [at the barn]. If most stay healthy, I think we’ll have a good meeting.”

Big day for those with Michigan ties

Wednesday looked more like an afternoon of racing at old Detroit Race Track as stables and riders with Michigan backgrounds won five of the 10 races on the program

In addition to Bennett’s two winners, Tampa fixture Ron Allen Sr. sent out two winners on the card, taking the third with Holy Fit ($4.40) and then coming back in the sixth with Geodi’s Gold ($14).

Trainer Peggy McVey, long-time assistant to John Reading, finished a big day for the folks from the Woliverine State when she tightened the girth on nightcap winner Tax Day Slew for a generous $23.80 mutuel.

Ron Allen Jr., who also spent his formative years in Michigan, scored a riding triple Wednesday.

◗ Michael Passero, cousin to the late Frank Passero, is back at Tampa, and the young trainer, whose runners impressed many when he was here two years back, is off to a good start with a win and second from his first two starters. He sent out Quiet Home to post a mild upset at $16.40 over a tough group of optional claiming filly and mare sprinters on Saturday. Last Friday, his Starship Supreme led every jump but the last one when second in a mile turf race for $16,000 claimers at 10-1.