Back in 2010 at Tampa Bay Downs, for a few exhilarating seconds, Lori Smock was on the verge of realizing a dream dear to the heart of anyone who has bred and raised a Thoroughbred capable of competing at the stakes level.
Her then-4-year-old gelding, Allie’s Event, had just surged to the lead in the stretch of the $75,000 Florida Cup Kinsman Turf Classic, about a couple of football fields away from winning his stakes debut.
One rival, 5-year-old Picou, had different ideas. He flashed past Allie’s Event, rolling to a three-and-a-quarter length victory to earn first-place money of $51,000.
Picou set a stakes record that day of 1:47 for the mile-and-an-eighth on the turf, while Allie’s Event finished a clear second. Picou raced eight more times without winning, being retired four years ago early in his 8-year-old season.
Although Allie’s Event came up short that day, he has rewarded Smock – his breeder, owner and trainer – far beyond his career earnings of $483,032. On Sunday, at age 11, he will make an incredible sixth Florida Cup start in the race now known as the EG Vodka Turf Classic.
The EG Vodka Turf Classic is one of six $100,000 stakes contests on Sunday’s 15th annual Florida Cup Day program, which begins at 12:15 p.m. It will be the fourth race on the 12-race card. Also scheduled are the $100,000 Hilton Garden Inn Sprint (Race 2); the $100,000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore (Race 5); the $100,000 14 Hands Winery Sophomore Turf (Race 8); the $100,000 Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies (Race 9); and the $100,000 Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf (Race 10).
“I’m hoping this year isn’t one too many,” said Smock, who wrestled with the decision to enter Allie’s Event after discovering Grade I winner World Approval and last year’s race winner, Go Around, both 5-year-olds, are part of the seven-horse field. “But I wouldn’t have entered him if I didn’t think he was capable of competing.”
Allie’s Event finished seventh in the 2012 Florida Cup Turf Classic, fourth in 2014, third in 2015 and eighth last year, while missing the race in 2011 and 2013. He has won 14 of 62 career starts.
Fernando De La Cruz, who rode Allie’s Event to victory in his first career start in 2008 on the all-weather synthetic track at Turfway Park, again has the riding assignment.
As a 10-year-old, Allie’s Event won three races in a row last season at Tampa Bay Downs at the conditional allowance/$32,000 optional claiming level, including one race that was taken off the turf, delighting his fans by rallying from the rear of the field to secure last-gasp victories.
He hasn’t appeared as sharp this season, finishing fourth in three successive starts at the $16,000 claiming level, but Smock thinks those results may be somewhat deceiving. “His trips have been the biggest difference. Horses have been bunching up in front of him, and with the outside posts he’s had, he really had no chance because he’s had so much ground to make up,” she said.
Allie’s Event again drew an outside post, but this time it is No. 7 and he should have time to secure a good position going into the clubhouse turn.
“At some point, you have to save ground, cut the corner (turning for home) and make a move from there, but that hasn’t happened yet. Maybe the smaller field will be the thing to help us find a better trip,” Smock said. “I just hope he can get a piece of it. That’s all we can ask.”
Allie’s Event is still in search of a stakes victory, having finished second in the Grade III River City Handicap at Churchill Downs in 2011 and second by a head in the Presque Isle Downs Mile in 2014 at odds of 23-1. He is by Wild Event out of Crewsin’ Allie, a mare Smock campaigned from 1999-2002.
Allie’s Event is one of three homebred runners currently trained by Smock, along with 5-year-old gelding Dreams d’Argent and 4-year-old filly Allie’s Revival, bred by her in partnership with Donna M. Burnham.
It is the dream of every small breeder to win a race such as the Florida Cup EG Vodka Turf Classic, and it is to the credit of Smock and her stable star that she has that chance Sunday.
“It’s not the easiest spot I could have chosen for him,” Smock said. “Maybe the mile-and-an-eighth will be to his advantage. It’s always nice to participate in something like the Florida Cup, and I just hope he turns in a credible effort and the race doesn’t take too much out of him.”
Around the oval. Juan Arriagada earned his first victory as a trainer today when 8-year-old gelding Moonshine Promise rallied up the rail to win the sixth race. Dean Butler rode the winner, who was also owned by Arriagada. Not anymore, though; Moonshine Promise was claimed back for $16,000 by previous trainer Anthony Rini for former and now-current owner Loooch Racing Stables.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Saturday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. The Oldsmar oval will also simulcast two major Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands prep races: the Grade I, $1-million Xpressbet Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park and the Grade II, $1-million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby from Fair Grounds.
Two horses that have competed at Tampa Bay Downs, State of Honor and Always Dreaming, are part of the 11-horse Xpressbet Florida Derby field. State of Honor finished third in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes and second in the Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, while Always Dreaming broke his maiden here on Jan. 25.
Source: Tampa Bay Downs