12/17/2012 1:51PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Stewart barn off to fast start


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Chad Stewart has been active in the entry box and in the winner’s circle this meeting, having won 6 races from 13 starters in the first seven days of racing, and he’s also put on his share of miles between Oldsmar and Ocala. The Nebraska native has a farm in Ocala, where he trains and prepares his runners, so there is a good bit of coming and going between his training headquarters and Tampa Bay Downs.

Stewart’s main client is Gene Phelps, owner of World Thoroughbreds, and one of his winners has a license to have a future on the turf. Patsy Joe won a $25,000 maiden claiming race on the turf here Dec. 12 and returned $33.80.

Stewart said he expected Patsy Jo to take to the Tampa Bay Downs turf because she had been training well and because her half-brother Rafe scored both of his victories over the course.

“So we were hopeful she’d run well, and she did,” he said.

Stewart said having a supportive owner like Phelps is a big part of the stable’s success.

“We’ve got better stock this season, and Mr. Phelps is very good about letting us run the horses where they belong,” he said. “That means a lot.”

Jane Cibelli also is off to a hot start with 5 wins from 8 starters, including the 2-year-old Purple Egg, who is undefeated in three career starts after winning the Inaugural Stakes on opening day here. All of Purple Egg’s races have been in main-track sprints, but he has settled down since being gelded and Cibelli thinks he can run two turns.

“That’s when it gets exciting,” she said. “Because if can handle two turns that means he can be something special.”

Jr’s Exchange sharp in return

Gerald Bennett, also off to a good start with four winners through Saturday, sent out Jr’s Exchange to win his seventh race at Tampa on Wednesday and stamp himself as a possible starter in the $75,000 Turf Dash, a five-furlong grass race here Jan. 5.

Making his first start since July, Jr’s Exchange bested Drunken Love from the Jamie Ness barn by three-quarters of a length after a long duel.

“He’s as game as they come,” his rider Ronnie Allen said. “He hates it when a horse tries to go by him.”

Jockey Cedeno riding well

Jockey Carol Cedeno, who won six races here last season after getting a late start, has three victories this meeting through Saturday and continues to impress with her solid riding style. On Friday, Cedeno slipped Stars Aligna through along the rail on the turn, and they went on to victory in a six-furlong sprint. Then in the Saturday opener, Cedeno was patient setting the pace under pressure with Brothers Outlaw before giving her mount the signal into the stretch, and the pair drew off to win by almost four lengths. She and trainer Dennis Ward have teamed up for a pair of winners at the new meeting. She has 73 wins this year, with 33 coming this fall at Hoosier, where she finished fifth in the jockey standings.