12/31/2016 7:13PM

Power Alert impossible to catch in Turf Dash

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John Duca/SV Photography
Power Alert and jockey Daniel Centeno win the Turf Dash by 3 1/2 lengths Saturday.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – When you’re hot, you’re hot, and right now, Daniel Centeno is sizzling.

Centeno picked up the mount on Power Alert for Saturday’s $78,750 Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs when Albin Jimenez decided to move his tack back to Turfway Park, and Centeno made the most of his opportunity, guiding the classy gelding to a front-running, 3 1/2-length victory. Power Alert paid $3.60 as the favorite in a field of 10 horses ages 3 and up.

Power Alert set extremely fast fractions of 21.14 seconds for a quarter-mile and 43.48 for a half-mile while pressured by One Lucky Step on his outside. He had more than enough in the stretch to hold off Incensed, who finished half a length ahead of third-place Fast Flying Rumor. They were followed by One Lucky Step, Super Spender, Morning Fire, Sweet Nkosi, Expected Ruler, Hold On Smokey, and Gallery.

The final time for five furlongs on a firm turf course was 55.25 seconds.

Centeno had been scheduled to ride the longshot Bill’s Passion after guiding that horse to a victory in the allowance prep for the Turf Dash on Dec. 7. But Bill’s Passion was scratched from the Turf Dash by leading trainer Gerald Bennett, freeing up Centeno to ride Power Alert.

“My horse was a late scratch,” Centeno said. “They told me I’d ride this horse, and I said, ‘OK, perfect.’ That was pretty exciting. The only instructions they gave me was to make sure he broke sharp and put him into the race. He broke a step slow, but then he took the lead, and after that, I pushed a little bit in the stretch to get him to switch [leads], and he was gone. He was so comfortable on the lead.”

Centeno, who has won five riding titles here, has captured six of the 13 runnings of the Turf Dash. He leads the standings this season with 22 wins from 64 mounts (34 percent).  

“If we were going to end up with a substitute jock, he ended up being the right one, that’s for sure,” winning trainer Brian Lynch said. “Danny was able to get him into the race, and once they ran the first quarter, I could see that he was just sitting on him, and I felt pretty good from there on out. He had a lot of horse underneath him.”

Power Alert had a strong 2016 season as a 6-year-old, compiling a record of 10-3-4-1 and earning $254,062. His campaign included wins in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint and the Silks Run Stakes, a pair of five-furlong turf sprints at Gulfstream Park; a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Parx Dash; and a runner-up finish in the $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational. In the Belmont race, Power Alert led most of the way before losing by a head to Pure Sensation, who would go on to finish a close third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

“He’s very deserving of [this win],” Lynch said. “He’s run in some very good races and lost some head-bob finishes, and he’s run on some turf courses that probably wouldn’t be his desired surface and still run well, so it was nice to see a firm turf course today. He looked like he should have been the favorite in there today, and he ran like he was the favorite, so I’m very happy for the horse. He’s a really honest horse.”

For his career, Power Alert, an Australian-bred son of Alert, has won 10 of 29 starts and earned $546,156. Owned by AJ Suited Racing Stable LLC and Lynch, the horse has five stakes wins in the U.S., including a score in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs in 2015. He finished third in the 2016 edition of that race.

Lynch said Power Alert will be pointed toward a defense of his titles in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint and the Silks Run later this winter.   

Fast Flying Rumor won the previous edition of the Turf Dash last January with a 108 Beyer Speed Figure that is the highest in track history. He broke a step slowly Saturday and chased the pace before finishing strongly for third.

“If Rumor would have gotten out of the gate, he would have won the race,” said trainer Bennett. “He loves a challenge head-and-head. I know [Power Alert] has a lot of class, but he loves this turf course. He lost the race at the break.”