Although Antonio Gallardo has never ridden 2-year-old colt Another Miracle in a race or a workout, trainer Gary Contessa is confident the two will hit it off like old friends in Saturday's $100,000 Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
“This horse is so well-mannered and so smart that it doesn't matter,” said Contessa, the veteran New York-based conditioner who is stabled here for the first time. “He's a very relaxed, cool-minded horse, so wherever Gallardo wants to be in the race, he (Another Miracle) will be very happy to be there.”
Another Miracle, who is owned by the father-son team of his co-breeders, Leonard C. Green and Jonathan I. Green, has plenty of speed and determination to go with his intelligence. A stakes winner on the turf in August at Saratoga, he overcame early bumping in the Grade II Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita to finish a fast-closing third, 2 ¼ lengths behind winner Four Wheel Drive.
The son of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, out of the Medaglia d'Oro mare Retraceable, is expected to be the wagering favorite for the Inaugural, one of two stakes contests on Saturday's 10-race Cotillion Festival Day card.
The 35th edition of the Inaugural, a 6-furlong race for 2-year-olds, has drawn a field of seven colts and geldings and is the third race on a program beginning at 12:38 p.m.
The 41st running of the $100,000, 6-furlong Sandpiper Stakes for 2-year-old fillies is the ninth race, with stakes winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies participant Two Sixty the likely favorite. Two Sixty is trained by Mark Casse and will be ridden by Gallardo.
All of today's races are for 2-year-olds (for record-keeping purposes, all racehorses are deemed to celebrate their birthdays on Jan. 1).
When Contessa decided to establish an operation at Oldsmar this season, he circled the Inaugural as a probable launching pad for Another Miracle's 3-year-old season.
“His (speed) numbers are fairly similar on dirt and turf, so we'd like to plot a course of whether he will be a dirt horse like his father or a turf horse like many of his dad's offspring have shown so far,” Contessa said.
Another Miracle broke his maiden on the dirt on July 24 at Saratoga (in a race taken off the turf) after running second in his career debut on the dirt on July 4 at Belmont to subsequent Grade II winner and Grade I Champagne Stakes runner-up Green Light Go.
Another Miracle pronounced his readiness for his Tampa Bay Downs debut by breezing 4 furlongs in 48 seconds last Saturday, the second-fastest of 66 published workouts that day at the distance. “I blew him out through the stretch Thursday and he went real nice and ran through the wire,” Contessa said. “I can envision Antonio laying in third place early and stalking the speed horses (Cajun Casanova and Zaino Boyz, perhaps), but as long as he stays out of trouble I think he'll be fine.”
Perhaps the most intriguing of Another Miracle's rivals is the gelding No Getting Over Me, conditioned by perennial leading Tampa Bay Downs trainer Gerald Bennett and owned by Bennett's Winning Stables.
The Florida-bred No Getting Over Me won his career debut on Nov. 29 going a mile-and-40 yards by almost 10 lengths. Bennett, who also entered He's Smokin Now in the Inaugural, believes last week's race took little out of No Getting Over Me and he is ready to move up in competition eight days later.
Samy Camacho will again ride No Getting Over Me.
“If you'd have put a match in front of his nose in the winner's circle last time, he wouldn't have blown out the match,” Bennett said. “He came out of the race real good and he's sharp. Old-timers will tell you when a horse is good you run him, and you start finding out how good they are by stepping up to the plate against better horses.”
For Bennett and other observers, the big unknown is whether No Getting Over Me possesses the turn of foot to sprint to victory against a more-seasoned, stakes-winning horse such as Another Miracle.
The Florida-bred Cajun Casanova, owned by breeder Shadybrook Farm and trained by Michael Yates, is also a stakes winner, and those connections and those of the other entrants no doubt have confidence in their chances.
That's why they call it a proving grounds, and this year's Inaugural could reveal possibilities that extend well into 2020.
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