Friday, March 23, 2018

Jockey Daniel Centeno picks up 2,000th victory

Daniel Centeno played in a jockey-related softball game Sunday afternoon near Philadelphia.

"We won," Centeno said.

But it was his walk-off shot several hours earlier that made Centeno's day.

Centeno, 42, a five-time riding champion at Tampa Bay Downs, collected his 2,000th career victory on even-money favorite Forest Rim, his only mount on the card at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa. Centeno won the $35,000 allowance turf test by 4 3/4 lengths, welcomed home by the call of track announcer Keith Jones.

"A big moment here for Daniel Centeno," Jones said. "He's going to win career race No. 2,000 … and he's going to do so in decisive fashion."

Centeno looked skyward as he crossed the finish line on the 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred gelding trained by 1990 Hall of Fame inductee Jonathan Sheppard for owner Augustin Stable.

"I was giving thanks to God, because I was so happy and I won it (for Sheppard)," said Centeno, who rode Forest Rim for the first time. "He is a great trainer, a good guy, good horseman, and on the grass he's amazing."

Centeno, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, said he began to think about No. 2,000 two days earlier, when former Downs leading jockey Jose Lezcano reached that mark aboard V.E. Day in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

"I was watching the races on the Internet, and (when Lezcano won) I said he made it. … I'm only one (win) away and I can make it, too.

"I've had my ups and downs. I've gotten hurt a few times. But I get up, try again, and work hard. I feel great and need to stay healthy — that's the key."

Centeno reached No. 2,000 in his 11,256th start, raising his purse earnings to $36,685,805. A total of 924 wins, including 33 in stakes, have come at the Downs, where he has ridden since 2004-05. Centeno's crowns at Oldsmar came in 2007-10 and 2013. His 144 wins and $2,145,528 in earnings at the 2007-08 meet remain Downs records.

This past season, Centeno won the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby for the second time aboard Ring Weekend, one of four graded stakes victories in the rider's 24-year career.

Centeno is competing this summer on the Mid-Atlantic circuit. He leads the jockey standings at Delaware Park in Wilmington, and entered Friday with yearly totals of 113 victories and $2,552,458 in earnings from 567 starts. Centeno and fiancee Ashley George reside in Tampa. Centeno has two children: Daniel, 14, and Jazmyn, 6. He plans to return to the Downs this year.

"I'd like to see if I can win one more title," he said. "I owe a lot to Tampa. I think Tampa Bay Downs made Daniel Centeno."

GREYHOUNDS: Husker Magic of Abernathy kennel seeks her 11th consecutive win tonight in Race 11 (10:29) at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. She clocked a career- and meet-best time of 30.13 seconds at 550 yards on Wednesday.

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