OLDSMAR — The first hands of high-stakes poker for 3-year-olds have been dealt at Tampa Bay Downs. Aces are missing from the $75,000 Pasco Stakes and $65,000 Gasparilla Stakes, co-featured races on today's Skyway Festival Day program.
Undefeated Top Seed and Dr. Zic, winners of the Inaugural and Sandpiper stakes, respectively, Dec. 27, won't be in the starting gate. They were among 46 nominations for the two 7-furlong events but are absent among the 16 horses entered. Each race could field 14 starters. All but Pink Gloss (Gasparilla) make their 3-year-old debuts.
"I guess (trainers) don't want to burn them out," stakes coordinator Duby Christo said. "Some of the horses will run in the Sam F. Davis (Feb. 14) and Tampa Bay Derby (March 14)."
Christo said that is the plan of Michael Trombetta, trainer of Top Seed, who would have been the likely Pasco favorite. Dr. Zic conditioner Joan Scott announced recently that her filly would skip the Gasparilla in favor of the Grade II Forward Gal Stakes on Jan. 30 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.
The Pasco (Race 8, 3:43 p.m.) attracted seven colts and geldings, including General Quarters and Miles and Miles, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Inaugural. Another entry is Jamie Sanders trainee Medaglia d'Onore. Sanders saddled Teuflesberg in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, finishing 17th to Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense. Musket Man, unbeaten in two career starts, is the early line 2-1 favorite.
In the Gasparilla (Race 10, 4:37 p.m.), Hooh Why, a third-place finisher in the Sandpiper, is among nine fillies. Caughtnthemoment, Pink Gloss and Rock Candy won their previous starts. "The race is so wide open," Christo said.
MORE HORSES: Post positions will be drawn Sunday for the Sunshine Millions on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. The eight-race event features horses bred in Florida and California. The richest race will be the $1 million Classic, a 11/8-mile test at Gulfstream Park.
GREYHOUNDS: McAllister Kennels' Flying Mancini, the probable favorite for the $10,000 Matinee Idol at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, clocked a season-best 36.96 seconds for 660 yards this week in an 81/2-length victory, her eighth consecutive win. She bettered the 36.98 by Campbell Greyhound Racing's Backwood Cash. The Matinee Idol, a 550-yard sprint, begins Wednesday with two qualifying races. The top four finishers in each move to the final Jan. 24. All action will be during matinee performances.