Updated on 02/18/2013 6:38PM

Tampa Bay notes: Trainer Jorge Navarro continues upward trend


OLDSMAR, Fla. – It’s the goal of every trainer to improve the quality of his runners, but with better quality horses comes tougher competition and it becomes harder and harder to maintain a high level of success.

That’s why Jorge Navarro’s accomplishments lately are noteworthy. Navarro, who began training in 2008, has shown an improving win percentage each season he’s raced and has managed to do this while steadily improving the quality of his stock.

This meeting, Navarro has sent out 19 winners from 50 starters for a blistering 38 percent win clip, a figure even higher than last year’s national leader in races won and current local training leader Jamie Ness’s 34 percent. Navarro has won with 9 of his last 16 starters.

Navarro said recently he’s happy to be continually upgrading his stable’s quality while not losing any momentum.

“We’re pleased with the way things are going,” Navarro said. “The horses like it here and are training well. We’ve done well at the meet thus far and we’re headed in the right direction quality-wise.”

Navarro was asked who his “big horse” is, and he responded that he had not one, but three: Daddy’s Honor, a recent winner on the turf; Angelofdistinction, winner against optional claiming sprinters in her last two; and First Acquital, who has won three of his last four.

“The stable’s well balanced, and we’re looking to improve and expand,” he said.

Navarro had 16 winners while winning at a 22 percent rate last summer at Monmouth in his first meeting there, and he plans to go back this season.

“The people there treated us very well, and it’s a great atmosphere for the horses,” he said.

De La Cruz has hot hand

The hottest jockey on the grounds these days is Fernanda De La Cruz. De La Cruz captured four races on Saturday’s program after posting a riding triple Thursday and has 36 wins on the meeting through Sunday. De La Cruz won 23 races for the entire meeting last year.

Jose Espinoza took the last two races Saturday, including the Grade 3, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes aboard Swift Warrior, and came back to win two more Sunday. He is winning at a blistering 38 percent.

Scott Spieth, who has won more than 4,000 races, scored a riding double on Valentine’s Day on a miserable rainy afternoon when many veteran riders would have found an excuse to take off their mounts. He now has 24 wins for the current stand. Ryan Curatolo posted a riding double Friday and now has 15 wins for the meeting.

◗ Dr. Rosalyn Randall, longtime state veterinarian here who died last year from breast cancer, was honored Saturday with the first annual “A Walk for Roz.” Members of the racing community and contributors took a one-mile walk around the main track in honor of Randall with donations going to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation for the cure and prevention of breast cancer.

◗ The rains from last Thursday and Friday left the main track with a pronounced inside speed bias that carried into Sunday’s program. Horses on or near the lead or those racing along the rail had a distinct advantage in main-track races Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Bettors should note the bias when handicapping runners who raced during that period.

◗ Gary Boulanger rode his first mount since being injured in a spill eight years ago when he pilotted Spring a Latch to a ninth-place finish in the ninth race Sunday. Boulanger, who won more than 3,000 races during his career, also trains Spring a Latch.