Good Luck and Good Racing: The Tampa Bay Derby


First things first: First post at Tampa Bay Downs is probably 11:00 AM on Saturday – I say probably because the Tampa Bay Downs website says so but the entries suggest an 11:25 start time. For Road to Kentucky contest purposes do show up before 11:00 AM to submit your entry as it would be better to be early than get shut out. Contest Winning Strategy #1: show up on time.

They have quite the marathon card set up for Tampa Bay Derby day, so make sure to get your homework done ASAP as the scores this week may weigh heavily in the final outcome of Road to Kentucky. The Sam Davis was a heartbreaker for yours truly, but Harpoon didn’t get the job done off that race and leaves his narrowly-victorious stalemate in question for this race. Let’s dig in:

There should be a healthy group headed towards the lead, and in looking up and down the field they’re sort of a similar bunch: Not all that consistent, but everyone’s best race puts them in a similar position and finishes in a similar figure/time. With that in mind, I looked a little more to the human connections in this particular spot.

Most of the colts in the gate are ridden by the pilot aboard last time around–an interesting exception is Cousin Stephen. Castellano hops back aboard this one for Chad Brown after his pace setting/pressing journey left him a bit tired in the Sam Davis. I don’t usually play said trainer outside of Gulfstream, New York, etc. but in this particular case he’s playable. Though he’s had limited success shipping in for graded stakes at Tampa in recent times, the only two wins he’s plucked out were ridden by the same jockey: J J Castellano. Both were aboard a superior filly in Zagora, but one has to think that he had the option to ride Surfing U S A for a most lethal Tampa stakes barn…..right?

That of course leads us to the Pletcher stable. They bring Vinceremos and the aforementioned Surfing U S A, but that’s where the problems begin. These two like to be in the same spot for the most part, and while a slow start cost the former in his maiden breaker he should be keeping his stable mate company for a good part of the race. The winner of the Sam F. Davis has an uncanny way of filling the exactas and tris in the past few years in the Tampa Bay Derby, so don’t leave him out but don’t accept a short price if you’re playing him in the contest. No colt entered is even close to a cinch….

Graham Motion does not put many horses into the deep end of the pool straight off their maiden score, but he’ll try to recapture a Went The Day Well vibe with Ring Weekend. He doesn’t have a great resume compared to the others but lining his time up against some of the other Gulfstream runners (I know, time only matters in prison Paul) he could pick up some pieces at a fat price. Just a thought.

The San Felipe

It’s very hard to be objective in the San Felipe, as the morning line favorite was my future bet in pool three and my current Derby horse. The California three year olds have been holding their own, but without a clear leader this race will send a horse near the forefront of its hopes. Like Pletcher in the East, most of these races require examining Bob Baffert’s horses before moving along to the rest. The problem is that he’s been a bridesmaid three years in a row in a race he used to scoop up every few years. So, without my darling Bayern singled on top where do we head?

After a slow start to the meet, John Sadler has been putting on a clinic with his three year old colts in stakes and has been masterful at keeping them separate. Kristo now takes his turn after high hopes have led to three second place finishes in four lifetime starts. He had five shorter, slower works leading into the Sham and with that one behind him perhaps another big effort is in the works. He appears to want the lead and sitting outside of Bayern will no doubt play to his advantage – Look who’s here to ride him. Kristo appears to need a little more aggressive handling and Joel is just the man for the job, so perhaps these two can slide into the winners’ circle at a fair mutuel. Not likely if Sadler wins even one before the San Felipe rolls around, but a girl can dream right?

An interesting horse is Rprettyboyfloyd, one of two maidens entered. He has panned out nicely for his purchase price and is quite willing to pass horses in the lane. Yes, he hasn’t won a race but if you need some points and you fancy one of the favorites the winner the price should be there. This race can produce some surprises and he would be a big one.

Why am I not on board with Bayern? He could not have had an easier race last time despite the impressive performance he turned in, and I want to see what’s in the heart & fight departments before I push all my chips this direction. His cruising speed is scary though, and if allowed to settle into such a rhythm he’ll be a monster for anyone trying to pass him in the lane. Stevens has a difficult decision brewing if this one turns in another race like last time, but this is not necessarily a make-or-break performance. While Baffert runners get plenty of schooling in the morning, there’s still plenty for this colt to learn and perhaps this spot will teach him.

Both of these cards are loaded with great races and fast horses – Make sure you get here early and catch it all. This is a weekend of racing that could make some big impact down the road…enjoy it and good luck!!

Angela Hermann

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