Tampa Bay Downs trainer Cibelli refuses to let up

OLDSMAR — Even when there is doubt, the fire burns inside Jane Cibelli.

The Tampa Bay Downs trainer arrives at Barn 11 at 5 in the morning, watches the afternoon races from grandstand Box 69, and returns to her Odessa residence, where she analyzes horses on the computer until 9 p.m.

"You have to put the time in and work hard every day," Cibelli said. "The only way to make money in this business is to win. Your overhead is huge: the exercise rider, the groom, the hot walker, the feed, the insurance. It's tough."

One of five trainers to finish in the top 10 in wins at the past five Downs meets, Cibelli posted career-high numbers last year at Oldsmar: a fourth-place showing with 26 victories and $299,593 in purse earnings.

But when it was time to head for Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., for the summer, Cibelli doubted her stock's quality.

"I asked myself, 'What am I going to do?' " she said. "Cliff Collier (agent for jockey Elvis Trujillo) came by the barn and I said, 'I don't know if I've got any business for you because I've got bad horses.' It was like gloom and doom.

"Well, things just started to come together."

The quinquagenarian from Leicester, United Kingdom, made history, becoming the first female in Monmouth Park's 65 years to win a training title. It is the only crown for Cibelli, who set lifetime highs in 2011 with 70 victories and $1,502,734 in earnings from 267 starts.

Cibelli, who upgrades her stock at the claiming box and with yearling purchases, won the Monmouth championship over Scott Volk 32-27. Several claims boosted Cibelli. She picked up Bombast for $12,500, and he won five straight races (three under Cibelli). D'cats Meow, a $20,000 claim, won three in a row (two under Cibelli), and also finished second in two stakes. Pound Foolish, a $22,000 claim in 2010, won four consecutive races, three at Monmouth Park.

"The condition book is the key, and you've got to pay attention and know who you're running against," she said.

Cibelli got her training license in 1987. She stopped conditioning in 1995, but returned a year later as an assistant to Downs 2003-04 leading trainer Lynne Scace and also Linda Rice, the first female to win a Saratoga (Springs, N.Y.) training title.

Cibelli has 415 career wins and $7,319,905 in earnings from 2,808 starts. She began her own stable in 1999. Cibelli has 45 clients and is responsible for 60 horses, including 28 at the Downs and 14 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.

"You're only as good as your owners," Cibelli said. "People have a little more confidence in me now."

MORE HORSES: Two-time Grade III winner Hot Summer is the 8-5 morning-line choice in the $50,000 Pelican (Race 10, 4:40 p.m.) at the Downs.

DOGS: The $10,000 Matinee Idol begins Wednesday in St. Petersburg. The finale is Jan. 28.

Tampa Bay Downs trainer Cibelli refuses to let up 01/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, January 20, 2012 9:07pm]

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