12/19/2015 5:36PM

Richies Sweetheart wins Lightning City with substitute jock

SV Photography
Richies Sweetheart and jockey Dean Butler win the Lightning City Stakes by half a length Saturday.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Dean Butler wasn’t expecting to ride in the $80,000 Lightning City Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, but when E.T. Baird failed to show up to ride Richies Sweetheart, Butler inherited the mount aboard the fastest horse in the race and guided her to a front-running half-length victory.

It was the third stakes win of the year for Richies Sweetheart, following scores in the $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap at Parx Racing in September and the $78,900 Brandywine Stakes at Indiana Grand in July. All three wins came in turf sprints, and Richies Sweetheart is now 7 for 10 on grass.

Larry Rivelli, who trains, co-owns, and co-bred Richies Sweetheart, said he didn’t know why Baird was unable to ride and didn’t learn of the jockey’s absence until “48 seconds before I threw Dean Butler up.”

“I had to pick from one or two guys, and I know that Dean’s been the leading rider up at Canterbury [Park] for a long time,” Rivelli said. “What are you going to do? There are 14 horses in the race [counting also-eligibles], and you have to try to pick the best of what’s left. He’s a plenty capable jock. You always wish your guy is on there because Baird has won a million races on her, and he knows her really well.

“I told Dean the main thing is to ride her with confidence. If you always think you’re going to win no matter what, she just keeps on going, but if you start pumping and scrubbing on her, then she kind of tenses up. She’s a funny horse to ride, and he did a good job for never riding her before.”

Richies Sweetheart led the field of a dozen fillies and mares ages 3 and up through a quarter-mile in 21.55 seconds and a half-mile in 44.58 before finishing the five-furlong race on firm turf in a swift 56.18. She paid $13.40 as the fourth choice.

“I was just told to let her break sharp, just sit and be chilly, and ride her with confidence, and that’s what I did,” Butler said. “When I asked her, she kicked and went on with it. I just was along for the ride.”

Katie’s Kiss finished second, half a length ahead of Iroquois Girl, and it was another three-quarters of a length back to Joya Real in fourth. 

Rivelli said he hasn’t picked out a next race for Richies Sweetheart. Prior to the Lightning City, her most recent start came in a $65,000 optional claimer on the main track at Hawthorne. Rivelli said he believes she bruised a foot during that race, so he sent her to a farm in Ocala, Fla., to rest for several weeks. After watching her race Saturday, he said the 4-year-old Bring the Heat filly clearly is back to her old self.

“She’s a fantastic horse,” said Rivelli, who shares ownership of the horse with Richard Ravin and Patricia’s Hope LLC. “She’s doing really good, sound, so we’ll just pick our spots and hopefully keep on going.”