03/21/2010 11:00PM

O'Connell barn keeps on rolling


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Trainer Kathleen O'Connell, who has been atop the trainer standings much of the current Tampa Bay Downs meeting, shows little signs of slowing down.

O'Connell, who enjoyed her best season ever in 2009, has won with 6 of her last 20 starters and has 41 wins at the meet, eight more than Jamie Ness. Ness, who scored a training double on Saturday, is four wins ahead of Dale Bennett, who also had a big day on Saturday, sending out three winners on the program.

Several of the smaller outfits on the grounds also had good weeks. Julie Luhr, who laughingly refers to several of the horses in her stable as her "problem children," won with two of her quirky runners. Babo, who Luhr purchased in the fall of 2008 and who has enough different neuroses to qualify for an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, won his fourth race with Luhr as his trainer. While Luhr says the horse is still "in a world of his own," the router's mental state has improved dramatically with a lot of attention.

On Sunday, Luhr sent out Briney Lad, another runner with eccentric ways, to lead from start to finish in a 1 1/16-mile route for his second win of the meeting.

Trainer Manny Criollo won three races for the week, including a double on Wednesday and lit up the tote board in the last race on that program when he sent out Soldier in Charge to post a stunning $131.60 upset. Robert Van Worp, a member of the Van Worp family who raced Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Not Surprising several years back, owns Soldier in Charge.

Peggy McVey didn't win a race this week but she almost gave her former boss, owner John Reading, a big present when his Coasting In led to the final strides in Thursday's nightcap before succumbing by a neck at 110-1.

On the riders' front, Daniel Centeno just keeps on piling up winners, adding a riding double Sunday for 13 wins on the week and bringing his total for the meeting to 101 wins.

Luis Gonzalez won six races on the week, scoring a riding triple on Thursday, a double on Wednesday, and added another victory on Sunday to raise his win total to 38 for the meeting. Pablo Morales topped off a good week as well with a riding double on Sunday to give him nine wins for the week and 26 for the meeting.

Good Lord's sizzler may earn Sophomore Sprint spot

Good Lord may well have earned himself a spot in the Sophomore Sprint on Florida Cup Day with his sparkling win in an optional claiming sprint on Saturday. Good Lord blistered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.09, coming close to the track record of 1:16.35 while drawing off to a 3 1/2-length win. Forrest Kaelin, who trains Good Lord said Sunday he's considering the Sophomore Sprint.

* Tampa Bay track superintendent, Tom McLaughlin, and his crew have remedied a troublesome situation on the turf course. A high number of horses had been bearing out in the stretch runs of turf races when they apparently saw and followed out tire tracks left by the mowing tractors. Changing the equipment used through that portion of the course has reduced the tire marks significantly, and many fewer runners now attempt to bear out in that area.