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COUNTDOWN TO RUN FOR THE ROSES, FAN APPRECIATION DAY HAS BEGUNOLDSMAR, FL. – Plans are underway for a spectacular week of Thoroughbred racing as Tampa Bay Downs officials, employees and horsemen prepare to pull down the curtain on the track’s 88th season.

Although the 2013-14 meeting officially ends on June 30 – which is also the first day of the track’s second annual, two-day Festival of Racing – the next four days of action, beginning with Wednesday’s nine-race card, will have an air of finality.

The exodus of horses, trainers and jockeys that began as a trickle earlier this month has accelerated to a deluge, and the barns will be empty within a couple of days after the results from next Sunday’s final race become official.

Tampa Bay Downs will conduct racing Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 4, along with simulcasting the $1-million Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies from Churchill Downs on Friday and the $2-million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands for 3-year-olds on Saturday.

Numerous festivities and events are being planned at Tampa Bay Downs for the big weekend. Fans are encouraged to join the fun by participating in the traditions that help to make the Kentucky Derby such a beloved spectacle, such as sipping on a refreshing mint julep, wearing the most stylish (or hideous!) Derby hat they can find and impressing their friends by naming all 11 Triple Crown winners.

Sunday, May 4 is Fan Appreciation Day, with free grandstand admission and $1 hot dogs, sodas and 12-ounce beers from noon-3 p.m.

Entering next week’s action, the Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., operation of Rich and Karen Papiese has locked up its fifth consecutive Tampa Bay Downs owners title with a staggering 45 victories – 32 more than the current runner-up, trainer Dennis Ward and Jeanne Shand’s Ridenjac Racing outfit.

Likewise, Jamie Ness, who conditions Midwest’s Oldsmar runners, is assured of an eighth consecutive training title with 52 victories, 17 ahead of Kathleen O’Connell.

Both the races for leading jockey and leading apprentice jockey remain undecided (June 30’s results will count toward the final 2013-14 meeting standings). Leading jockey Antonio Gallardo, with 20 victories over the last nine racing days, has a 112-104 advantage over Ronnie Allen, Jr.

None of the track’s handful of apprentices really established themselves this season, and the current 1-2 “bugs,” Octavio Vergara, Jr., and Juan De La Cruz, posted five and four victories, respectively, before moving their tack. Vergara is based in the mid-Atlantic, having ridden at Pimlico this week, while De La Cruz is at ThistleDown in Ohio; whether either would be inclined to return to Tampa Bay Downs on June 30 is unknown at this time.

Today’s action. Jockey Daniel Centeno rode three winners, while Jose Angel Garcia scored on a pair of long shots.

Centeno tallied in the second race on 5-year-old gelding Sailing Clear for owner Amaty Racing Stables and trainer Herman Wilensky. He added back-to-back victories in the fifth and sixth races for trainer Gerald Bennett – first on 3-year-old filly Gem’s Pride, owned by Shamrock Thoroughbreds, and next on the turf on 7-year-old mare Two Wonders, owned by Lorna Possler.

Both of those winners were claimed from the Bennett barn. Trainer Thomas McCooey, Jr., claimed Gem’s Pride for $8,000 for new owner Joseph L. Signore, Jr. Jamie Ness claimed Two Wonders for $16,000 for Jagger Inc., his and wife Mandy’s stable.

Garcia won the fourth race aboard 3-year-old gelding Daddy’s Kid, who paid $37.60 to win. Daddy’s Kid is owned by Big Lick Farm and trained by Reid Nagle. Garcia captured the seventh race on 3-year-old gelding One Hot Pairadice, who paid $34.00, for owner Brittany Terlep and trainer Rory Barron.

Fernando De La Cruz also rode two winners, both on the turf. He captured the eighth race on 5-year-old gelding Press Baron for owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trainer Arnaud Delacour. De La Cruz went gate-to-wire in the 10th on 4-year-old filly Woo Pass for owner Kim Deaton and trainer William Deaton.

Post time for Wednesday’s first race is 12:30 p.m.

Kentucky Derby update. Ring Weekend, the winner of the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 8, will not run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands because of a fever and infection.

Trainer H. Graham Motion revealed the news this morning via Twitter. “Ring Weekend spiked a temp this morning of over 102 & bloodwork confirms an infection,” the tweet read. “Sadly, he will not be able to take part in Ky. Derby.”

Ring Weekend was scheduled to ship Monday to Churchill Downs following a six-furlong workout of 1:12 4/5 on Friday at Motion’s Fair Hill Training Center base in Maryland. Terry Finley, President of Ring Weekend’s co-owner West Point Thoroughbreds, said the gelding could return to action in the Preakness on May 17 at Pimlico if he regains full health in time to train sufficiently to the race.

Ring Weekend is expected to be replaced in the 20-horse Derby field by Commanding Curve, a ridgling owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Dallas Stewart. The sophomore’s main claim to fame (thus far) is having the same initials as Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome.

Currently, two colts with experience at Tampa Bay Downs are in the field based on accumulated points: Vinceremos and Harry’s Holiday. Vinceremos, who won the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 1, earned 20 qualifying points with his second-place performance in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Vinceremos is owned by WinStar Farm LLC and Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC and trained by Todd Pletcher.

Harry’s Holiday earned his way into the Kentucky Derby by finishing second by a nose to We Miss Artie in the Grade III Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. Owned by Skychai Racing LLC, Sand Dollar Stable LLC, Terry Raymond and Jana Wagner, and trained by Michael Maker, Harry’s Holiday was fifth here in the $100,000 Pasco Stakes on Jan. 4.

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