Thanks to his 15-year-old “hoss” back home and his 3-year-old filly on the Tampa Bay Downs backside, trainer Tim Hamm has felt nearly invincible recently.
Three weeks ago, his son, freshman quarterback Shane Hamm of Akron (Ohio) Archbishop Hoban High, threw four touchdown passes to lead the school to a 42-14 victory against Cincinnati Winton Woods and its third consecutive state championship.
In today's third race, an allowance/optional claiming event at a mile-and-40-yards for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward, Hamm's sophomore filly Tapa Tapa Tapa made a super-successful return to competition after a seven-month layoff, drawing off to win by 12 ½ lengths from Folk Magic and four others in 1:39.70, .63 seconds off the track record.
Pablo Morales rode Tapa Tapa Tapa, who is owned by the Beau Ravine, LLC concern of her breeder Patricia Pavlish and husband Ed Pavlish. Tapa Tapa Tapa had won the Suncoast Stakes here in February by three lengths from subsequent Grade I winner and Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff participant Elate.
The third race was the Wayward Lass Prep, as well as the Lambholm South Race of the Week, and Hamm said he plans to point Tapa Tapa Tapa to the Wayward Lass Stakes here on Jan. 20. Shane has already been directed back to the books.
“After a seven-month layoff, there is always a little apprehension,” Hamm said after the victory by the gray Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit-Kickin' the Clouds, by Dixieland Band. “She'd been training so well that we were confident, but you still have to go out there and see it and then you believe it.”
Hamm took off the blinkers for today's race, thinking it would help Tapa Tapa Tapa relax, and that is how she ran, free and easy. “We had a horse with stretch-out speed in front of us (Renee's Cat) and got a perfect stalking trip,” Hamm said. “Pablo said he asked her a little bit on the turn, and she had plenty left to go.
“We have a lot of confidence in this filly. We want to let her earn her way back, get her legs underneath her and get her confidence back. She beat Elate, and we all know what Elate went on to do. We think (Tapa Tapa Tapa) is good enough to run with anybody.”
Morales, who rode Tapa Tapa Tapa in her first four starts as a 2-year-old – all at Woodbine in Toronto, with two victories – was grateful for the chance to be reunited. He had ridden her in two recent 5-furlong workouts and was always confident today.
“I knew if she showed the class that she has, she could throw a big race,” Morales said. “I had the luck of drawing the outside post, where I could pretty much do whatever. She is the type of filly where you can't really tell if she is going fast or slow because her stride is so long. It actually feels like she is going slow, but she covers a lot of ground.”
Morales tapped her twice with the whip to get her to change leads at the top of the stretch, and Tapa Tapa Tapa's natural instincts took over. “The last eighth of a mile, I pretty much took a long cross and just held her together.
“She just did it cruising.”
Now 4-for-9 in her career, Tapa Tapa Tapa finished fourth in the Grade III Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn in March and sixth in the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico in May, then developed a small chip in her right front knee after a workout, leading the Pavlishes and Hamm to opt for minor surgery and time off.
“The owners are fabulous. If you tell them you need something, it's not an issue,” Hamm said. “That helps – otherwise, the horse wouldn't be here today doing this.”
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