12/31/2012 1:51PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Cotton Pickin overcomes trouble again

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OLDSMAR, Fla. – There were more than a few anxious moments on Dec. 23 when Cotton Pickin made her fourth start in an first-level optional $75,000 claiming race at a mile on Tampa Bay Downs’s turf course, but the High Cotton 2-year-old filly overcame being taken up in the first turn and then worked her way through traffic on the backstretch to outduel a dead game Sea of Laughter for a nose victory.

The win was the second from four career starts for Cotton Pickin and was the latest chapter in her tale.

Kats Golden Ways, Cotton Pickin’s dam, won $130,000 as an allowance-level turf runner who raced primarily on the New York circuit for Barclay Tagg. Retired from racing, Kats Golden Ways was sent to Joe Hennessy’s farm in Ocala, Fla., and Hennessy gave the mare to Bob and Christine Vogt and sent her to the Vogts’ farm in Dunedin, an area of Florida known more for spring training baseball and Gulf Coast beaches than Thoroughbred breeding operations.

The Vogts purchased a service to High Cotton in a breeding auction, bred that Dixie Union stud to Kats Golden Ways, and then brought their mare back to Dunedin where she foaled Cotton Picken in January 2010. Sent back to Hennessy to be broken, Cotton Pickin was put in the 2012 April sales at Ocala Breeders’ Sales but failed to reach her reserve and was bought back by the Vogts and sent to trainer Derek Ryan.

Ryan picks up the story from there.

“She was a very straightforward filly from Day 1 with us and we thought she could be a nice sort,” the trainer said, “She overcame trouble to get up and win sprinting on the turf in her first start at Monmouth, then had a terrible trip in a stakes at Calder and another bad trip in her first start here. It’s strange that she’s been in so much trouble because she’s a dream to handle. As a matter of fact I get on her myself about half the time in the mornings.”

While Cotton Pickin has never started on dirt, Ryan said she trains great over the main track in the morning and he’s thinking about a start in the $100,000 Gasparilla at seven furlongs on Jan. 12 for his young runner.

“We’ll see if she can handle dirt, but our main goal is the Florida Oaks,” said Ryan, referring to the $150,000, 1 1/16-mile turf stakes on Feb. 2. “She’s a really nice filly and the Vogts are great people who are really enjoying the experience.”

By the way, the first foal by Musket Man, who finished third in the 2009 Kentucky Derby under Ryan’s tutelage, is a colt out of Kats Golden Ways the Vogts gave to Ryan. This story could just keep getting better and better.

Centeno gets jump on fifth Tampa title

Daniel Centeno has roared to the top of the jockey standings with 19 wins through Sunday’s program.

Centeno, who already has four Tampa riding titles to his credit, got here early this season after trying Gulfstream Park for several months last winter and has been picking up steam with each passing day. Angel Serpa is second in the standings with 13 wins followed by Daniel Coa, Dean Butler, and Scott Spieth.

◗ Jamie Ness, who was set to wrap up the national title for races won in 2012 on Monday with almost 400 victories, is leading the local trainers’ race with 10 wins, followed by Chad Stewart with 8 wins and Gerald Bennett and Jane Cibelli with 7 wins each.