04/07/2008 12:00AM

Cup Day closers were out of luck


OLDSMAR, Fla. – For handicappers, the three main-track races among the six stakes on Florida Cup Day Saturday were notable for the intense speed bias of the racetrack. Not one runner who led into the stretch of those races, all sprints, lost on a track that has been kinder to speed runners than usual this meeting.

On Saturday, one stalker or closer after another made a menacing move through the turn and into the stretch only to fail to make up much ground through the final quarter-mile. Only one horse from the day’s six main-track races was not in front a furlong out, and that horse finished second, a head back of the leader.

Frustrated closers whom bettors might want to watch for when they come back on a surface that is kinder to late ralliers include Tight Precision, who gained three lengths in the final furlong against Moonshine Alice in the Sophomore Fillies; D’artagnans’spirit, who bobbled at the start of the Sprint and then gained almost five lengths through the final furlong; and Brother Joey, who finished well but had his rally overshadowed by the dazzling 10 1/2-length winning performance of Repenting in the Sophomore Sprint.

That effort by Repenting was by far the single most impressive performance of the day. Making his second start since being claimed by trainer Jamie Ness, Repenting laid right off early leader Flatter’s flank under Daniel Centeno through an opening half-mile of 44.70 seconds. When Centeno gave the signal in the stretch, Repenting drew off like only good horses do, covering the seven furlongs of the Sophomore Sprint in 1:22.79, less than a second off the track record. There was still a little left in the tank as he cruised across the wire.

Look for Repenting to shoot for the Minnesota Derby at Canterbury. Repenting, a son of Repent, is eligible for the Claiming Crown there, too.

Record-setting day

The crowd of 7,406 for Florida Cup Day was a record for the event, and the all-sources handle of $6,325,642 was also a record. Centeno won four races on the program, including three Cup races, while Jose Velez Jr. won two, including a Cup event.

The purses earned by Centeno pushed his meet purse earnings to $1,815,497 which broke the meet earnings mark he set last season of $1,667,752.

* Ronnie Allen was selected as jockey of the month for March. He has won 21 races in 33 racing programs since returning to the saddle earlier this meet. He will move his tack to Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania when Tampa closes.