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Walkathon, Never Explain Victorious on Tampa Bay Turf

Walkathon  used a front-running trip to win the $150,000 Endeavour Stakes (G3T) for fillies and mares Feb. 3 at Tampa Bay Downs while Never Explain  saved ground and prevailed with an early stretch run in the companion Tampa Bay Stakes (G3T).

Walkathon put on a run-a-thon.

Breaking sharply from the 4-gate in a field of seven, jockey Antonio Gallardo shot the 5-year-old Twirling Candy   mare out to an early lead and never relinquished it.

Shadowed by Full Count Felicia  through fractions of :49.33, 1:12.71, and 1:35.26, Walkathon maintained a precarious lead heading for the stretch. As Full Count Felicia faded, Be My Sunshine  and jockey Edwin Gonzalez took up the chase from their stalking position but came up 1 1/2 lengths short of the winner. Sparkle Blue  rallied from next-to-last to get third.

Walkathon came out a bit in the final furlong and had to survive a claim of foul lodged by Be My Sunshine’s rider.

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“I hit my horse with my left and she came out a little,” Gallardo admitted. “But he couldn’t beat me.”

Walkathon, a Whitham Thoroughbreds homebred out of the Stroll mare Walkabout , finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:41.

The Ian Wilkes trainee got her first win in her fifth start April 22, 2022, at Keeneland. She followed that with a victory in a Churchill Downs allowance race, then won the Regret Stakes (G3T) by 1 1/4 lengths over McKulick . She then was away from the races for nearly 15 months and had not won in four starts, finishing fourth in the Dec. 30 Suwannee River Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park.

“She was off for more than a year, and it took a long time to get her back into form,” Wilkes said. “I told Mrs. (Janis) Whitham after the Suwannee River she was close to being where I wanted her. Her races had gotten better and better.”

The Tampa Bay Stakes

Never Explain took a different approach in the day’s finale, saved ground down the backstretch in the $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (G3T), came out into the stretch and prevailed by a half-length in the middle of a three-way dash to the wire.

Running Bee  got through on the rail to finish second with Siege of Boston  closing on the far outside for third, just a nose farther back. Never Explain, with Vincent Cheminaud up for trainer Shug McGaughey, finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.03.

Never Explain wins the Tampa Bay Stakes on Saturday, February 3, 2024 at Tampa Bay Downs
Photo: SV Photography

Never Explain wins the Tampa Bay Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs

“My horse was beautiful. I had the best chance, and he finished well, so I’m very happy,” Cheminaud said. “We had a very good trip today.”

Never Explain, a 6-year-old Street Sense   entire, stepped into stakes company for the first time May 2023 in the Dinner Party Stakes (G3T) at Pimlico Race Course. He won that, but then came up short in four straight starts before going to the sidelines after a ninth-place finish in the $1.675 million Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes (G2T) at Kentucky Downs. The Tampa Bay was his return from that five-month layoff.

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