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This time of year, jockeys may leave their winter racing base for mounts in Kentucky Derby prep races around the country and top jockey Tyler Gaffalione is no exception. Travelling to Tampa Bay Downs for their signature day of racing, Gaffalione picked up two graded stakes wins including the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby, the only Derby prep race of the weekend and on a day that proved to be most unusual.

His two graded stakes wins led the panel of racing experts to vote Gaffalione Jockey of the Week for March 4 through March 10.

The weekly award recognizes jockeys for riding accomplishments and who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 1,050 active, retired and permanently disabled jockeys in the United States.

Riding for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr., Gaffalione was aboard Skippylongstocking in race six, the G3 Challenger. Off as the favorite in the field of six, Skippylongstocking broke from post position three and tracked the pacesetter Impacto up the backstretch before given his cue around the far turn. Overtaking the leader at the quarter pole, Skippylongstocking easily held off Sherlocks’ Jewel through the stretch to post a 2 1/2-length win, clocking 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.12.

“We were a little concerned that we would be the only speed,” Gaffalione said. “My horse jumped out well, the outside horse put a little bit pressure, my horse relaxed and we were able to let him go and he got into a great rhythm.”

Just after the running of the tenth race, the G3 Florida Oaks, is when things took a turn for the bizarre as the tote board froze and stayed that way for nearly an hour. In the meantime, the 10 entrants in the day’s feature, the G3 Tampa Bay Derby were headed to paddock for saddling where they remained for more than 30 minutes when the decision was made to run the Kentucky Derby points race as a non-wagering event.

Gaffalione was given a leg up by trainer Chad Brown on Domestic Product in the Tampa Bay Derby. Racing midpack, Gaffalione tipped Domestic Product wide off the turn. The duo joined a cavalry charge down the stretch determinedly chasing Good Money to the wire for the win by a short neck, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.47 and earning 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Not only was Gaffalione riding in his first Tampa Bay Derby but he followed in his father’s footsteps as Steve Gaffalione won the 1989 Tampa Bay Derby aboard Storm Predictions.

“In the stretch, that horse on the outside was kind of leaning on him, I felt if I could get him free, I had plenty of horse,” Gaffalione said. “He’s still young, he’s still learning but I was very proud he went and got that horse at the wire.”

To cap a day unlike any other, the 12th and final race was cancelled.

Other contenders for Jockey of the Week were Junior Alvarado who won the G3 Florida Oaks, James Graham who won the G2 Azeri, Flavien Prat with a G1 win in the Beholder Mile, and Cristian Torres who posted eight wins for the week to lead all jockeys.

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