04/13/2008 11:00PM

Strong colony fails to slow Centeno


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Last season, Daniel Centeno rewrote the Tampa Bay Downs record books when he booted home 125 winners. This season, with the addition of several veteran riders and some talented newcomers to the local riding colony, many observers felt there was little chance Centeno would threaten his own mark and that he would have a battle on his hands just to repeat as leading rider.


In Saturday's nightcap, Centeno put an exclamation point on this meeting when he won aboard Smile Train for his top client, leading trainer Jamie Ness. The win was his 126th of the meeting, and there are 12 programs still remaining for the stand, which ends May 4.

There is no doubt that riding the bulk of the horses for Ness - who is also in the middle of a record-breaking season - is a big help, but Centeno also has won for a number of other trainers, from big outfits to small, on stakes horses on down to $8,000 claiming maidens. He has simply been the single dominant force of a colony most agree is the deepest and most talented in the track's history.

So is Centeno surprised with the level of his success this winter?

"Yes, a little bit," the rider said Sunday. "When I came back here and heard that riders like Willie Martinez Jr. and Jose Velez Jr. were going to be riding here, I told my agent that those guys could make it tough on us. They're well known, high-profile riders with solid backgrounds. But I also knew I would riding for Jamie, and anytime you ride for a stable like that, you're going to win races."

Centeno's aggressive riding style, which puts horses in contention early, works well here, and the jockey said he attributes much of his success to paying attention to his competitors and the day-to-day changes in the racing surface.

"I pay attention to who's riding what in each race," he said. "I note each rider and their tendencies and try to use that to my advantage, and I also pay attention to the changes in the track. Some days the best paths are off the rail, sometimes it's better closer to the fence, and I try and pick up on those changes while I'm warming up and while I'm riding the first mount of the day. It's a good, safe surface but it does change depending on how much moisture is in it, and those changes can help you win races. This is my fourth year now, so I'm pretty comfortable being here."

Ness headed to Canterbury

Jamie Ness had saddled 59 winners through Saturday's program - a meet record. The old mark of 44 wins was set by the late Don Rice during the 2001-02 season. Ness reports he'll be heading back to Canterbury Downs to defend his training title this summer.

"That's my home, and as much as I love Tampa, it's always good to get back home," Ness said.

Moonshine Alice sold

Moonshine Alice, winner of the Sophomore Fillies Stakes here on Florida Cup Day, April 5, has been sold for an undisclosed amount by owner Kenneth McFarland, trainer Gerald Bennett said.

"She's going to Keeneland and will race for Bobby Frankel," Bennett said. "I was sorry to see her go. She was still learning and improving, but it's a good move for the owners, so for that I'm happy."