‘He Loves The Horses’: 76-Year-Old Gerald Bennett Named Tampa’s Trainer Of The Month

Gerald Bennett skipped the winner’s-circle photograph after Wednesday’s second race at Tampa Bay Downs. It wasn’t that winning races has become old hat; while his 4-year-old homebred filly Princess Livia received the plaudits, Bennett attended to his other entrant in the race, 5-year-old mare Rattlesnakerose, who finished last of six.

“(Jockey) Danny (Centeno) said the ground broke out from under her on the back end – probably trying to get away so quick,” Bennett said after hosing down Rattlesnakerose and assuring himself she was no worse for the experience.

Meanwhile, Princess Livia was led away, having been claimed from the race for $10,000 by owner-trainer Victor Carrasco, Jr. The $10,000 price tag was the lowest Princess Livia has ever run for. Both runners were owned going into the race by Bennett’s Winning Stables enterprise, Rattlesnakerose in partnership.

The horses may be Bennett’s babies, but sentiment isn’t going to take him where he wants to go.

“A lot of owners get afraid to lose their horses (through the claims box), but the name of the game is to win races,” said Bennett, who won today’s first race with still another Winning Stables horse, 2-year-old Florida-bred gelding Foreman.

Bennett knows the name of the game. With 15 victories this meeting, he sits atop the trainer standings and is the inaugural 2020-2021 Salt Rock Tavern Trainer of the Month Award winner.

Bennett has a rapport with horses few trainers achieve. As he walks through his barn at Tampa Bay Downs in the pre-dawn hours, some nicker in recognition, while others get close enough for a nudge they hope will be rewarded with a peppermint candy. All are alert, tuned in and eager to heed the man’s teachings.

“He loves the horses. He loves the business,” said his wife, trainer Mary Bennett. “He got in the trailer (on a recent off-day) to take horses to Ocala to be laid up, and when he’s there he’ll watch horses train to see if he can get another good one. He loves everything about it. Racing is his adrenaline rush,” she said.

His numerous followers often get a rush at the betting windows. Turning beaten horses around is a Bennett trademark, and those caught unawares are often kicking themselves in the parking lot – as on Nov. 28, when a couple of Bennett-trained long shots combined for a $2 late daily double payoff of $181.40.

Bennett, a 76-year-old product of Springhill, Nova Scotia, is off to a typically strong start in his bid for a sixth consecutive Oldsmar training title and seventh title overall. Only Jamie Ness has won more (nine in a row, from 2006-2007 through 2014-2015). With 15 victories, Bennett has earned the inaugural Salt Rock Tavern Trainer of the Month Award of the 2020-2021 meeting.

“We kind of plan for this meeting all year, keep our horses fresh and hopefully everything goes well,” said Bennett, who has a string of 45 runners here. “When you keep your horses happy, they’ll run for you. Happy horses enjoy the competition.”

There are going to be setbacks – horses get sick, incur injuries or are claimed by another trainer unexpectedly. Photo-finish losses and disqualifications are a downer, but Bennett always bounces back stronger.

“When that other stuff happens, you have to keep going, keep working hard,” Bennett said. “You try to keep things on an even keel and do the job the right way.”

Bennett races many of his horses as an owner under his Winning Stables, Inc., banner, and last season he captured his first Tampa Bay Downs owners title with 24 victories.

Bennett may call Tampa home, but he has enjoyed many big days and excellent horses elsewhere. His top horses includes Grade 1 winner and millionaire Beau Genius, Secret Romeo, Banker’s Jet, Fast Flying Rumor and R Angel Katelyn.

Bennett has 3,935 career winners, 14th on the all-time North American list. He trails only the late Frank H. Merrill, Jr. (3,974 victories) among Canadian-born trainers. Then, hopefully, the 4,000-victory milestone and another reminder that somewhere on the Tampa Bay Downs backstretch exists Bennett’s private Fountain of Youth.

The post ‘He Loves The Horses’: 76-Year-Old Gerald Bennett Named Tampa’s Trainer Of The Month appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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