OLDSMAR — Fans welcomed another season of thoroughbred racing and an owner said goodbye to his stakes-winning mare on a record-breaking afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday.
All-source wagering for the 11-race card was $4,920,218, surpassing last year's record total by $476,441.
In front of 5,004, the track's 84th season began with trainer Anthony Pecoraro saddling winners in the first three races.
Later, the $65,000 Lightning City Stakes was the finale of a 36-race career for winner Taletobetold, who defeated 9-5 favorite Easy Ashley by a half-length in the 5-furlong turf sprint.
"We're going to breed her," owner Robert DeWitt said. "We're waiting on a contract now to a real nice stallion (in Kentucky)."
Taletobetold, fourth in last year's Lightning City, set fractions of 21.69 and 45.47 seconds with Charlie Papa alongside. But she pulled away entering the stretch and held off Easy Ashley in 58.19 seconds under jockey Tony Farina. Kosmo's Buddy was another half-length behind in third, and Charlie Papa finished seventh.
It was the eighth victory for Taletobetold, a 5-year-old mare by Tale of the Cat. The $30,000 paycheck increased her career bankroll to $469,550. Her $16.80 winning mutuel was the highest of the day.
Pecoraro, 46, who has never captured a training title, won with three of his four starters: Aaron's Flight ($7.60), Snuck in Love ($6.60) and Sunny Exchange ($4.80). All made their first Downs starts. Juan Levva (two) and Inez Karlsson were the riders. The streak ended in Race 6, when Beatrippi finished fourth.
"Years ago, I was an assistant to my dad (Matteo) here, and we won seven in a row," Pecoraro said.
A native of Long Island, N.Y., Pecoraro has been at the Downs for the past 25 years, once losing a title to John Reading by one victory. Pecoraro has only 10 horses.
Herson Sanchez, a former rider and now a jockey agent to Ricardo Feliciano and Andrew Ramgeet, said Pecoraro's showing was special.
"I've been here since 1979 and can't remember anything like that happening before," he said.