01/26/2012 4:34PM

Tampa: Cat Park, Juliet Tango look for third straight wins on turf in Tampa Test


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Cat Park and Juliet Tango, both seeking their third straight wins over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course, top their fields Saturday in the second leg of the Tampa Test, a series of starter handicap routes for horses who have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2011-12.

The four-race series that has divisions for males and females, concludes on March 24 with a pair of 1 3/8-mile marathons. The series started with mile races on Jan. 7.

Cat Park, a 5-year-old gelding, was claimed by trainer Jamie Ness out of a winning effort going nine furlongs on the turf in his first local start for a $16,000 claiming tag while racing for Jane Cibelli. He came right back in the first leg of the Turf Test to race in close attendance to the pace for five furlongs, and then surged past the leaders into the stretch of that mile race to draw off by almost five lengths as the choice of that field.

A five-time winner on the turf, Cat Park faces some new competition in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile route, including Crimson Knight, a $16,000 claim who was second, beaten a neck, in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at odds of 86-1 last season as a 3-year-old. A winner later in the meeting on the turf and stakes placed on the grass at Penn National last July, Crimson Knight has not raced since October. Trainer Gerald Bennett is also looking at some other options for Crimson Knight, but if he runs, his classy record would make him one of the choices in the colt and gelding division.

All the Bases, who romped to an easy win here earlier in the meeting while posting a quick mile time of 1:35.55, moved into the starter handicap ranks last out and rallied late to be second behind Cat Park. He likes the Tampa grass course and should be in a striking position early at this longer distance.

I’ve Got Speed, a classy 10-year-old with 23 lifetime wins, makes his first start for trainer Lonnie Arterburn and has faced some tough competition in the past. Let It Rock was beaten less than three lengths in an overnight handicap at Saturday’s distance last time out and could be the dark horse of the field.

In the fillies and mares division, Juliet Tango overcame some traffic problems to be up in the final strides of her last, the first leg of the female portion of the Turf Test at a mile on the grass. The win was the second straight locally for Juliet Tango, and with several rivals from her last back in this one, she may go off as the favorite.

The Jamie Ness duo of High Cry, who fell just a half-length short of Juliet’s Tango last time out as the choice of that field, and Lucky Lass, who moves into the starter handicap ranks after a turf win in her first start for the Ness stable last time out, top the challengers along with My Estelle, who came from well off the pace to upset a strong field of high-priced claiming turf routers here in her last race.