01/20/2011 4:41PM

Impressive maiden winner Rafe faces winners on turf at Tampa Bay


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Rafe, who came charging from last to post an eye-catching win in his career debut, will try winners for the first time Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs when he tops a field of eight 3-year-olds in the ninth race, a first-level optional $75,000 claimer at a mile on turf.

Rafe, trained by Chad Stewart, was 13-1 in his debut, which came against $30,000 maiden claimers. He broke slowly and trailed the field through the opening five furlongs and had just two horses beat when turning for home in the mile turf race. But when jockey Leandro Goncalves swung the long-striding colt to the middle of the course, Rafe kicked into gear and roared past the leaders in the final furlong to win going away by two lengths.

Daniel Centeno will ride Saturday.

The top challengers to Rafe may be Summer in Giza and Live in Joy, who each had traffic problems when second and third, respectively, in their local debuts.

Summer in Giza, who was moved to the barn of Kathleen O’Connell after finishing fourth on the turf at Aqueduct in late November, made his first start in five weeks in a mile allowance turf race here. His rider was forced to check sharply over the heels of the eventual winner, Terminal One, when that horse drifted in leaving the chute. Summer in Giza recovered to stalk the leaders, then finished willingly only to fall a half-length short.

Live in Joy was forced to take up early in the same incident in that race. He made up ground steadily to midstretch but his early troubles took their toll and he weakened to be third while making his first start since October.

O’Connell has also entered Watch Me Go who will be making his turf debut after finishing fifth in the Inaugural Stakes last time out. Watch Me Go won a 5 1/2-furlong sprint at Calder the last time he raced against allowance company.

◗ In race 5, a first-level optional $16,000 claimer, Spanish Comedy, who hasn’t finished worse than fourth in her last seven sprint tries, tops an evenly matched field of nine filly and mares going 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track

Spanish Comedy had some traffic problems when second against allowance competition at Churchill in her last, a race that was taken off the turf and moved to the main track. Her lone win last season came at Tampa.

Sing It Again, who has a win and second with claiming sprinters in two local outings, moves into the allowance ranks and the four-time winner deserves a look along with Freedom Flag, a well-bred filly from the Shug McGaughey barn.