01/27/2014 3:16PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Matador training well ahead of Sam F. Davis Stakes

Michael Burns
Matador (left) wins the Cup and Saucer Stakes by a nose over Cool Faith at Woodbine on Oct. 20.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Trainer Mark Casse’s 3-year-olds train at Palm Meadows, but Tampa Bay Downs has become one of the top proving grounds for his up-and-coming horses.

In recent years, Casse has sent runners like Prospective and Dynamic Sky to Tampa Bay Downs for the track’s 3-year-old stakes series. Dynamic Sky won the Pasco Stakes here last season, and Prospective won the 2012 Tampa Bay Derby.

While races at the Oldsmar oval have not led to a victory in the Kentucky Derby for Casse, as they did for Street Sense and Super Saver, he has a talented Malibu Moon colt named Matador who will try to change that.

Casse and owner John Oxley, of Monarchos fame, thought so highly of Matador that they entered the colt in the $150,000 Vandal Stakes for his first start in August at Woodbine. Matador was bothered at the break of that six-furlong sprint and did not get untracked until late, finishing fourth.

Matador then tried turf in the Grade 2 Summer Stakes in September and closed late in that one-mile race to be third. He stayed on turf in October to score a front-running victory in the $250,000 Cup and Saucer.

After a troubled trip in the Coronation Futurity on Woodbine’s Polytrack, Matador was given a short respite, moving to Palm Meadows with the rest of Casse’s string for the winter.

The young runner has been training very solidly, with a string of five-furlong drills, and last Saturday posted his final work for this Saturday’s Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00.65 that pleased Casse.

“He worked in a minute and change, finished out strong, and looked very good doing it,” Casse said. “He’s been training very well over the dirt since he got here, and to be honest, I’ve felt all along that when we got him on dirt, we would see his best.

“A lot of horses who race well over the Poly and turf don’t like dirt, and vice versa, and in this colt’s case, I’ve felt all along that dirt would be his preferred surface.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

With four stakes starts in as many career races, it would appear that Matador’s connections thought highly of him from the start.

“Yes, he’s been on our A team from an early juncture,” Casse said. “He’s got a very nice way of going. He seems to be adaptable, and while he hasn’t shown it in all of his races, he’s got a very high cruising speed.

“Of course, this is the time of year where your young horses tell you just what they’re capable of and what they’re not. That’s why we’re interested in seeing what he shows us in the Sam Davis. If he brings the talent he’s shown us on the dirt in the morning to the races, then maybe we’ve got a horse we can have some fun with this spring and summer.”

Two-man jockeys’ race

The race for leading rider continues to be a two-man affair, as Ronnie Allen Jr. and Antonio Gallardo continue to ride in fine form. Allen, who posted a four-bagger Sunday, leads the way with 40 wins, while Gallardo, who had another strong week, is second with 34 victories.

Daniel Centeno has been making steady progress after arriving late and now has 20 wins at the meet, while the injured Fernando De La Cruz, the early leader, has 23.

Bettors would do well to consider the mounts of Victor Lebron. Lebron, who won more than 100 races a year for seven straight seasons before slumping to 69 tallies in 2013, is as talented as they come and won a race here Sunday in his first day on the scene.

The trainers’ race is a dandy, with Jamie Ness leading the pack with 15 wins, followed by Gerald Bennett, who won two races with promising maidens Sunday to give him 13 tallies. Bennett’s son, Dale, ranks third with 12 wins, with Dennis Ward, who also had a training double Sunday, one win back with 11 and tied with Jason DaCosta.

arturol More than 1 year ago
If there is anybody at Daily Racing Form who believes in customer service, please help. I've been trying to cancel my useless membership (unable to access drf plus) for the last 2 months, to no avail. Calls to Customer Service and e mails have not been effective. CS keeps saying they forwarded my call to headquarters (unable to provide an address and phone number so I can follow up) I finally disputed the charges with my bank which reversed the last payment. " Quick to charge and increase price , but slow to respond" aptly describes drf's mission statement. arturo laguna
martymar . More than 1 year ago
They actually renewed my drf plus when I still had 2 weeks lefts in my account. But you can go to the status and changed your membership to non recurring and plus I called to tell them to reverse the charges
mark oleary More than 1 year ago
M J More than 1 year ago
Hey mark oleary, how do you expect DRF to stay in business if they provide content for nothing? Many other print publications are losing millions and have folded in the last few years. We should be grateful that DRF is trying new ways of generating revenue to make it work. Sad to see that some people have no clue as to what it takes to run a business.
joe donato More than 1 year ago
i am with mark and the clueless people. I spend enough money on drf past performances (print and online). I also have a lot of complaints about the way they do things, but i will be here all day listing things.they dont have any competition and they know it. I think its nothing but GREED
martymar . More than 1 year ago
They are selling data they don't pay for. If I were the racetracks I would make exclusive deals with the publication of their data.
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
Generating revenue, is getting people to the tracks to buy the printed version that is way overpriced. Nothing worse than not being able to read about triple crown horses from across the nation.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
MJ, you're the one that seems to "not have a clue" DRF make's their money by selling PPs, which they are way overpriced, the + articles are not worth the cost of admission. I get the + because I buy PPs regularly and there is hardly ANY posters on those pay to read articles, and have never gleaned any knowledge that put me on a winner, at least not over 2 or 5-2. which I don't count as winners because I don't believe in betting a lot to gain so little..
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Mark, try writing a letter to drf customer service and put Lonnie in subject line, Lonnie is the best, imo, and he has been exemplary in customer service, at least with me, and I'm sure others, for years..
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
seems the same story every year with casse and his 3yo,s. it always looks like hes going have some great ones for the triple crown races and every year theres issues with bad trips or minor set backs in the prep races then they just kind of fade away or never amount to much. maybe this year will be different or he will have one in the derby and as you count him out hes going win a huge odds