This year’s $100,000 Lightning City Stakes came down to the final stages as 3-year- old filly Triple Chelsea closed the gap and won by a neck over Nite Delite.
Wilmer Garcia, Triple Chelsea’s jockey, was elated with emotion after Saturday’s win.
“I was thinking I wasn't going to get there,” he said. “When I saw her flash past that other horse right before the wire, I got so excited.”
Garcia and Triple Chelsea got there just in time finishing at 55.60 seconds in the five furlong turf race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
Garcia was not the only one excited. Winning trainer Anthony Granitz was proud of how Triple Chelsea reacted after a rival jockey’s whip brushed her face as she launched her winning rally between horses.
“That shows you how much class she has,” Granitz said. “She has a lot of talent and I told (Garcia) to ride her with a lot of confidence because there was a lot of speed in the field and to be patient.”
Garcia admitted: “I got a little nervous because my filly is kind of tiny and I thought they were going to squish me, but when I let her go she responded and was flying through the stretch.”
But Garcia put his nerves aside and took Granitz’s advice and ran with it. Triple Chelsea not only displayed her talent and class, but her strength; fighting from behind and in seventh place after the start before moving up to fourth entering the stretch.
Nite Delite ran a speedy race having everyone thinking she had it. She beat out the 8-5 favorite Everything Lovely by 2 ¼ lengths. Nite Delite was bumped at the start, but dueled inside and shook free at the turn being in first place for a while until Triple Chelsea came later on.
Albin Jimenez rode the 4-year-old Nite Delite for trainer Linda Rice.
Everything Lovely was the favorite after her win on Opening Day, Nov. 26, in the Lightning City preview race. She finished third 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Southern Ring, the fourth place finisher in the 12-horse field.
Triple Chelsea was bred at the Liberty Road Stables Barn in Kentucky, and owned by Calvin Johnston and Carlos Tonda. Saturday’s win was her fifth in nine starts, and with the $45,000 winner’s share of the purse she raised her career earnings to $187,760.
Saturday’s race was the first at Tampa Bay Downs for Triple Chelsea, who is a daughter of Hat Trick.
*Triple Chelsea was sent off at 9-1. third lowest odds in the field, and Nite Delite was 12-1. The $2 exacta paid $212.60.
* The winning time of 55.60 was fourth fastest in the 13 runnings of the Lightning City. The record of 55.50 was set by Bucky’s Prayer in 2007 and tied by Smartys Emperoress in 2013.
*Tampa Bay Downs will resume racing on Wednesday with a 10-race card at 12:25 p.m. and will also have racing on Friday. It will be off next Saturday for the Christmas Eve holiday.