Monday, April 27, 2015

Homeister Sets Sights after Tampa Bay Downs

Homeister Sets Sights after Tampa Bay Downs

By Steven Buckner
Monday, April 27, Oldsmar, Fla.— After a good meet at Tampa  Bay Downs, Rosemary Homeister Jr. is focused on the  Kentucky Oaks on Friday May 1.

Homeister will ride Include Betty in the $1 million Grade 1 stakes for 3-year-old fillies at  Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

The Oaks, at 1 1/8 miles on dirt, is annually the feature race the day
before the Kentucky Derby.

The Oaks will allow Homeister another opportunity to pilot Include Betty to the winner’s circle in a graded stakes.

On April 4,  Include Betty was last in an 11-horse field after a half mile in the 1 1/16 mile Fantasy Stakes (Grade 3) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. Under Homeister’s calculated ride, Include Betty rallied on the outside and won by  a neck over the fast-closing Oceanwave,

Rosemary Homeister Jr. and  Formal Dinner before the sixth  race at TBD on April 22
Photo: Steven Buckner

The victory earned Include Betty enough qualifying points to make the 14-horse Kentucky Oaks field.

Homeister describes Include Betty as the “best horse in a big race.”

She has ridden Include Betty in her last four starts--two of them wins at Tampa Bay Downs (TBD).

Include Betty’s sire is Include, a multiple stakes winner who  also was a deep closer.  She  is trained by Tom Proctor, one of  the many top TBD trainers for whom Homeister rides on a regular basis.

Homeister had 42 wins in 362 mounts at TBD this  season.  That places her fourth  in wins for the meet  that  closes May 3.

Pre-Race Planning
It came as no surprise in the Fantasy that when asked to pour on the speed Include Betty responded well.

That was plan A, Homeister said during an interview at TBD on April 22.

But she always has a Plan B, in case the Plan A fails.  Pre-race tactics and homework with the trainer set plan A.  Included are the post position and field size.

Homeister likes to understand what the horse prefers and where the horse will naturally gravitate. Is it in traffic, or wide and out in front or in the back of the pack?

Horse racing is unique because it includes two minds. Homeister works hard to interpret her horse’s personality. It also must happen quickly.

Many times she is scheduled to ride in back-to-back races.

“ I read the ears of my horse during the seven-minute warm up right after saddling,” she said

Homeister also utilizes the handling pony along side her horse to help keep her horse focused and settled. When the race begins, she takes control and works with the horse as one to be the smartest and fastest by race end.

A Racing Family
Homeister is warm and personable. She has a large following, she is a winner and racing is in her blood.

Homeister, who is 42, is a native of Hollywood, Fla. Her parents, the late Jim Homeister and Rosemary Homeister Sr., were both jockeys.  Rosemary Sr. is a trainer with horses that run  at Calder Casino & Race Course in Miami Gardens and at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.

The younger Homeister began riding in 1992 at Calder. She has 2,750 career wins as  of April 24 and is second in all-time wins among  women jockeys.

She looks forward to the prospect of breaking the retired Julie Krone’s record of 3,704 wins.

But that might have to come with a break in between. Currently, Homeister plans to race another two years until her daughter Victoria Rose begins school.

Victoria Rose is the center of the universe for Homeister. Before a race and after, she is thinking about her daughter.  The 3-year-old loves to see her mother ride and she gets as excited as the fans seeing her mother race.

After work, the pair like to play by visits to Disney, zoos and water parks.

The petite mother does not work out or go to a gym to maintain her lean body.

 “A race is equal to 20 minutes in the gym, plus the mental effort to win,” she said.

Surprisingly, Homeister does not desire to see her daughter to continue her path into horse racing.

Homeister has a winner’s circle ritual that she performs—either pointing directly into a camera, or a raised finger pointed to the heavens.  The point to the camera is for Victoria Rose and the point upward is in remembrance to her late grandparents. Both grandparents had great influence on her during her formative years.

Homeister says race strategy boils down to “move forward and turn left”. Accordingly, she attributes a successful race as one that has her finish safely and hopefully a winner.

“I must win,” she says with eyes flashing as she looks forward to the Kentucky Oaks.

* Include Betty is sixth in  qualifying  points for the Oaks.

The field looms as one of the strongest in the race in recent years.  Birdatthewire, winner of this year’s Gulfstream Park Oaks (Grade 2) will be among the favorites. Oceanwave also will be in the field.

Include Betty won the Fantasy at 18-1 and likely will be 10-1  or  higher in the Oaks.  The post position  draw will be this Tuesday evening, and we will  report on it.

The Oaks will be Friday’s 11th race at Churchill Downs, with  scheduled post time of 5:49 p.m. Eastern.  It is the feature on a day that will have six stakes races.

The NBC Sports cable channel will carry Friday’s Churchill Downs races from 12:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. TBD and Gulfstream will simulcast the full Churchill Downs cards on Friday and Saturday.

* This will be Homeister’s second trip to Churchill Downs to ride on Oaks-Derby weekend.

In 2003, she rode Supah Blitz to a 13th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Earlier that year, she and Supah Blitz came in  second in the Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) and fourth in the Florida Derby (Grade 1) at Gulfstream.

* Homeister can be found at

* Starting Wednesday, HorseracingFLA will have preview stories on the Oaks, Derby and other  upcoming stakes at Churchill Downs.  A big  part of our focus will be on horses that ran at TBD and/or at Gulfstream this winter.

On Friday, we will handicap and publish our selections and suggested betting strategy for the Oaks. On  Saturday morning, we will do the same for the Derby.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Day at the Races, Tampa Bay Style

Editor’s Note: Steven Buckner has joined HorseracingFLA as Tampa Bay correspondent. This story is the first of the regular reports you will see from Steven.  He is based in Clearwater and has a freelance photography business with a client base that includes the Tampa Tribune, United Press International and the DeLand Sun News.

By Steven Buckner
Again this season, Tampa Bay Downs is showing how a track can keep building a racing program that attracts strong national attention while still keeping a traditional day at the races atmosphere.
On Sunday April 19, we chronicled a day that in many ways was typical of what fans on site and fans betting  via simulcasts and Advance Deposit Wagering are finding at the Oldsmar, Florida oval.
A crowd that the track’s management estimated at 3,200 watched ten races on a sunny afternoon with temperatures in the mid 80s.

Four of Sunday’s races were on the turf course, which has held up well during the season that began Nov. 29. 

Tampa Bay Downs (TBD) put in its turf course in 1998,  and  that has helped it gain popularity among the country’s bettors. 
Daniel Centeno; winner aboard Really Good Guy

During  the winter most tracks outside of Florida, California and several other mild-weather states have ground that is too soft and wet for turf racing.  

Turf races at TBD often have ten or more horses. Those large fields are attractive to bettors seeking  big payoffs. Thus, turf racing is a main reason why TBD does more than $4 million in all-sources handle most days between January and March. Sunday’s six other races were on the dirt track, which Tampa Bay Downs officials and many jockeys refer to as the “sand track.”

TBD’s track has a base with more sand than  most other tracks and is generally regarded as one of the country’s deepest and safest for horses. O
n Sunday, five-time champion Tampa Bay jockey Daniel Centeno rode one winner on dirt (Really Good Guy in the third race) and one winner on turf (Corinthian Summer in the  tenth).
The day’s biggest margin  of victory was in the fourth race,  with Bluesville beating runner-up Mo Mon’s Copycat by  8 ¼ lengths.
Bluesville (#8) Before Sunday's Fourth Race

Bluesville rallied from fifth place after a half mile and won the one mile turf race for fillies and mares in 1:37.08.   He was ridden my Mike Allen for trainer Kathleen O’Connell and owner DiBello Racing.
Live handle was $181,957, according to Equibase charts. An additional $2,948,634 was wagered on TBD races by bettors at simulcast sites including pari-mutuels in Florida and other states, off-track betting sites in other states and Las Vegas sports books as well as with legal computer and phone betting services.
That added up to all-sources handle of $3,130,591. That put TBD fifth in  wagers among  the country’s thoroughbred tracks.  It  trailed Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, Aqueduct and Keeneland.  

The Scene

Race fans can place bets on TBD races and with simulcasting also are able to make bets on horses racing around the country. Simulcast betting is easy and fun via large video screens covering the other races.
Fans were either indoors in comfortable air conditioning or outdoors with fresh air and a cooling breeze.  Food and drinks were available in several convenient locations ranging from casual fare to white linen table top service. The Silks Poker Room is open on dark days as well as on race days.

Only seven race days are left, including closing day Sunday, May 3 and Saturday, May 2 when TBD will have simulcast betting on the Kentucky Derby.

After a day at Tampa Bay Downs our view is that you owe it to yourself to get out and experience a unique sporting event that calls Oldsmar home since 1926. Grab a program early, place your bets and have a great time.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gulfstream Opens Spring Meet with $3.3 Million Handle

By HorseracingFLA staff
Thursday,  April  9 -- Gulfstream Park  opened its 2015 spring meet yesterday and had all-sources handle of  $3,337,437  for eight races.

That figure looks respectable considering these numbers:
* Gulfstream had $4,475,362 for eight races on Wednesday April 1, the start of the final week  of its championship meet.  But Keeneland had not yet opened its meet.
* Yesterday, Tampa Bay Downs had all-sources handle of $3,277,779  for ten  races. Aqueduct had all-sources handle of $4,366,768  for nine races.  Keeneland's handle was not readily available.

Using Equibase data we are compiling and reporting handle,  field  sizes and other key numbers for Gulfstream Park each day during its 2015 spring meet, which began  Wednesday April  8.

Separately, each Monday we will  do a comparison of   Gulfstream's weekend numbers with the similar period in  2014.  Gulfstream had racing Fridays through Sundays throughout  2014's second quarter  and ran head-to-head against  Calder Casino & Race Course on those days.

This  year,  Gulfstream  has racing Wednesdays through Sundays until May 17 and then Thursdays through Sundays until the end of the second quarter.

Wednesday April 8
Races   -- 8
All-Sources  Handle -- $3,337,433
Starters -- 59
Scratches --  15
Conditions  -- fast and firm
Turf  races  --  5

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gulfstream Opens Spring/Summer Season Today

By Jim Freer
Wednesday,  April  8  --  Gulfstream Park will open its 2015 spring/summer racing season this afternoon with an eight-race card topped by a $46,000 allowance optional claimer that includes the Todd Pletcher-trained stakes star Vinceremos.

First post is 1 p.m. for opening day and for most other days in  the meet that will extend through Oct. 3.

Gulfstream will have a Wednesday through Sunday live racing schedule until the week of May 18 and then run Thursdays through Sundays, with the exception of  several holidays, until the end of its six-month season.

Gulfstream has 72 entrants including  also eligibles for today’s card that  offers $217,000 in purses.

The $46,000 allowance is the third race with scheduled post of  2 p.m. It is one  mile on dirt with seven entrants.

Cash Rules and Dudeman loom as top challengers to Vinceremos.  Of the three, only the 8-year-old gelding  Cash Rules is in for a tag.

Last year Vinceremos finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) and won the Sam F. Davis (Grade 3) at Tampa Bay Downs.

He experienced a rough trip and  finished seventh March 14 in a one-mile optional claimer at Gulfstream--his first race since last October 8 when he came in third  in a race with similar conditions at Belmont Park. Edgard Zayas has the mount on the 4-year-old gelding.

Cash Rules, trained by David Fawkes, finished fifth March 14 under similar conditions to the  opening day feature. The multiple stakes-winning son of Peace Rules has earned nearly $500,000. He finished second to Ron the Greek in the 2013 Sunshine Millions Classic. Luca Panici has the mount.

The four-year-old Dudeman’s record includes a second to the highly regarded Atreides in the one-mile Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream last Dec.8.   Edgar Prado will ride for trainer Jane Cibelli.

Gulfstream was dark for two days after it ended its 2014-15 championship meet April 5.

Gulfstream has not yet released data on handle and field size for its four-month championship meet.

But our review of Equibase Co. charts indicates that Gulfstream will surpass or come close to the its record daily average all-sources handle of $8.6 million that  it set  in  2012-13.

Gulfstream’s average daily all-sources handle was $8.3 million in  2013-14 when it raced head-to-head with neighbor Calder Casino & Race Course on  Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The two tracks settled their dates dispute last  July, and Gulfstream has leased Calder’s racing operations through June 2020.

Gulfstream will hold a 40-day meet at Calder, now called Gulfstream Park West, from Oct. 7 to Nov. 28.  Gulfstream will then begin its 2015-16 championship meet Dec. 5.