01/07/2013 1:49PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Jason DaCosta emulating his father

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Tom Keyser
After a stirrup broke when he was aboard D K Edge, jockey Ricardo Mejias thought quickly and wound up with second-place money.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – It was almost preordained that Jason DaCosta would become a horse trainer. After all, DaCostas’s father, Wayne DaCosta, is a 10-time leading trainer in Jamaica, a member of the Jamaican Racing Hall of Fame, and has saddled more than 1,600 winners.

Among his top horses in Jamaica were War Zone, winner of the Jamaican Triple Crown and undefeated in his first 12 career races; the filly Thornbird, who beat the boys in the Jamaican Derby; and Good Prospect, who won the Jamaican Derby in 1999. The elder DaCosta ranks second only to the legendary Philip Feanny for career races won on the Caribbean island.

The younger DaCosta worked for his father for almost five years in a stable that has a reputation as a tightly run ship with Wayne DaCosta the captain, then came to the United States in 2009 with his father’s encouragement.

The son said that his father told him the United States “was the place to come to broaden my knowledge of not only the training portion of the game but the business end of things as well.”

DaCosta started slowly, winning just two races in his first two years in the United States, but in 2011 the young horseman posted 13 winners and in the recently concluded 2012 season the DaCosta stable posted 21 winners with a 17 percent winning percentage.

In the first month of the Tampa Bay Downs meeting, DaCosta has been on fire, winning 7 races from 16 starters for a blazing 43 percent winning rate. The star of the DaCosta stable is Mind Spell, a Proud Accolade gelding who has a win and second from two outings over the track and is pointing to Saturday’s $100,000 Pasco Stakes at seven furlongs on the main track.

Mind Spell was a pace factor throughout his last, and DaCosta said the Pasco will be a good test as to the 3-year-old’s ability to handle longer distances.

“I think from the way he trains that he’ll be fine going longer, but you never know til you test the waters.” the trainer admitted. “If he gives a good account of himself Saturday, then we can think about the Sam Davis.”

Mejias earns tough paycheck

Jockeys will tell you when an iron breaks on your saddle the best you can hope for is to come back with some very sore body parts that are best left unnamed. In the worst-case scenario, you lose your balance and are thrown off an 1,100-pound race horse going 40 mph.

That’s why the performance by apprentice Ricardo Mejias, on D K Edge in last Wednesday’s fifth race, is worth noting.

Breaking from the outside post in the field of seven, Mejias hadn’t gone more than a few strides when his right stirrup broke. He kicked the other stirrup clear in order to maintain his balance and kept his mount well wide and clear of other rivals. But after a quarter-mile, a point when many riders would have taken their mounts to the outside rail and eased them up, Mejias kept on urging D K Edge, and the pair eventually wound up crossing the wire third. Then after the winner was disqualified for interference after the start, D K Edge was elevated to the second spot, so the horse’s owners wound up with $3,927 in purse money mainly because of the fierce will not to quit by Mejias.

Mejias has seven wins thus far at this meeting to lead all apprentices and has all the signs of being the real deal.

Garcia getting aggressive

Jose Garcia won a race Sunday to raise his win total for the meeting to seven, and according to Robert Smith, who put him on Sunday’s winner and urged the rider to ride here this meeting, he is slowly learning how to ride the Tampa Bay surfaces.

“You have to be more aggressive earlier here than at other tracks, and Jose’s a sit-still, quiet-type rider,” Smith said. ”We’ve been trying to have him watch jockeys like Danny Centeno and others who work hard to place their horses in contending position early in a race. This a first-move-type racing surface, not a last-move-type. You’ll win more races here by moving too soon then waiting too late.”