Despite the relative inexperience of her 3-year-old filly J P's Delight, trainer Kathleen O'Connell was confident tackling stakes competition in the $125,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday.
“She just had to be comfortable, and I thought she had the perfect post (No. 5 in a six-horse field) to be comfortable,” O'Connell said. “This track is very similar to Gulfstream Park West (where she won a conditional allowance race on Oct. 11 by 6 ¼ lengths), and I'm happy we brought her here today.”
O'Connell's faith was rewarded with a 2 ¾-length victory by J P's Delight, who improved to 3-for-3 for owners Brent Fernung and Eugene Cahalan. Jairo Rendon rode the winner in the south Florida-based jockey's first-ever race at Tampa Bay Downs.
J P's Delight, who held off the 2-5 favorite, runner-up Wildwood's Beauty, raced the 7-furlong distance in 1:23.65 on a fast track. The Florida-bred daughter of J P's Gusto-Our Delight, by Rock Hard Ten, bred in partnership by Fernung, his wife Crystal Fernung and Cahalan, paid $6.40 as the second wagering choice.
The first-place winner's share of $75,000 raised her career earnings to $118,100.
In today's other stakes race, the $125,000 FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes, 3-year-old colt Jackson won his third stakes in three starts at Tampa Bay Downs, powering to a 3 ½-length victory from Cajun Firecracker. Pablo Morales rode Jackson for breeder-owner Tracy Pinchin and her husband, trainer Jose Pinchin.
Morales was also aboard on May 4 when Jackson set the Oldsmar track record of 1:38.86 for a mile-and-40-yards in the FTBOA Silver Charm Florida Sire Stakes. Jackson, who paid $8.20 to win today, is a son of Kantharos-Deposit Only, by Put It Back.
His time for the 7 furlongs was 1:23.80. Well Defined, this year's Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner, finished third.
“He (Jackson) broke out of the gate so sharp he could have gone to the lead if I had let him, but with the good post I had (No. 6 in the six-horse field) I decided to sit and stalk the leaders for a little bit,” Morales said. “I had him under a snug hold, but I figured, man, he really wants to run, so on the turn I let the reins go a tiny little bit and he did the rest.
“In the lane I just had to encourage him because he got by himself and was standing a little, but when I reminded him the race wasn't over he switched leads and took off again. He did it pretty impressively. He's a really neat horse.”
Jose Pinchin, who watched the race from Gulfstream Park, said Jackson's chances in last month's Millions Sprint Preview Stakes at Gulfstream Park West went up in smoke when his jockey lost the irons and nearly fell. “From where we were watching today, he pretty much went by himself,” Pinchin said.
“Maybe we should come back to Tampa again. He really likes that racetrack.”
Jackson improved to 5-for-14, with career earnings now $376,875.
In the FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes, Rendon's main concern was how J P's Delight would handle the track in her first race here. Those concerns vanished quickly, and he benefited from her natural speed and desire to take control around the turn.
“I was happy just to be close the first part of the race,” Rendon said. “At the half-mile pole, I let her go and she took off on her own and just kept going.”
O'Connell credited the owners for their patience in allowing J P's Delight to develop at her own rate. “Some horses are just late maturing. It's like a basketball player who hits a growth spurt or a girl who is all gawky and all of a sudden they blossom,” the conditioner said. “I have to hand it to those owners who give these horses the time they need, because not all of them are meant to be 2-year-old runners.
“Sometimes you make a horse that isn't bad look bad by trying to make them do something they're not capable of doing,” she said. “They may just need more time to mature.”
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