Normally, you don't expect to find a candidate for graded-stakes success competing in a maiden special weight race in late November at Tampa Bay Downs.
But after watching his first-time starter No Getting Over Me roll to a 9 ¾-length victory in his career debut at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards in today's sixth race, five-time Oldsmar training champion Gerald Bennett threw caution to the wind.
“I was a little worried about him going that long his first time out, but I wanted to get him running because I haven't won a (Grade II Lambholm South) Tampa Bay Derby yet,” said Bennett, who saddled 86-1 shot Crimson Knight for a second-place finish in the Tampa Bay Downs showcase in 2011.
The 2020 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is March 7.
“This is a nice horse, a real nice horse,” Bennett said of No Getting Over Me, a gray 2-year-old Florida-bred by He's Had Enough Bennett owns under his Winning Stables banner. “I'm really glad how he handled himself today. And he was so relaxed walking back (to the barn); sometimes after they run, they can get really worked up.”
The victory by No Getting Over Me capped a 3-for-3 day for Bennett. Last season's leading jockey, Samy Camacho, rode No Getting Over Me, who completed the distance over a fast track in 1:40.31, 1.45 seconds off the track record.
Saturday's nine-race card begins at 12:51 p.m., with Bennett set to send out three runners.
Bennett said a key to No Getting Over Me's performance was going the extra yard with him around the barn. “He was kind of mean at first, but we just babied him,” he explained. “I've got him eating mints and everything. We just conned him.”
Bennett's other victories today came in the first race with 8-year-old Florida-bred mare Southern n' Sassy and and in the third race with 2-year-old Florida-bred colt Neat Street, who was also ridden by Camacho. Bennett and his wife Mary used some of their purse winnings to claim Americano, the third-place finisher in the fourth race, for $6,250.
Bennett, who has a string of about 42 horses here, said the key to getting off to a fast start at the meeting isn't complicated. Numbers help, of course, plus “We get in here as early as we can and get them training here and get enough works under them so they're already used to the track.”
A healthy dose of optimism can't hurt, either.
“That was a good race, so now we'll take the next step. If you don't try to think positive. … well, that's the way you have to go in this game. You have to carry that over to your horses and let them feel positive,” he said.
It might have also worked for Camacho, who posted his third victory on the card in the next race on the turf with 4-year-old gelding Small Hope for trainer Kent Sweezey.
Trainer Darien Rodriguez won with both of his starters today, sending out 5-year-old gelding Legacy Azteca to win the fourth race and 6-year-old mare Marmalade to capture the ninth on the turf.
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