By Margaret Ransom
Since first contested in 1981, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) has produced two winners of the Kentucky Derby (G1) — Street Sense in 2007 and Super Saver in 2010. It has, however, produced a significant number of Derby starters and Saturday’s edition, with a field of 12 sophomores led by Sam F. Davis (G3) winner Classic Causeway, seeks to improve on those statistics.
Once again, the 1 1/16-mile event is sponsored by Lambholm South, a highly successful Thoroughbred nursery and training center located in Florida. American financier and businessman Jack Dreyfus founded Hobeau Farm in the 1960s and the facility was purchased by longtime horseman Roy S. Lerman in the mid-2000s and added to the previous Lambholm South facility once known as Allen Paulson’s Brookside Farm. Lerman opened Lambholm South in 2000 and it’s been one of the more successful operations in the Ocala, Florida area.
Tapwrit won this race in 2017 before going on to win the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Verrazano won the Tampa Bay Derby before winning the Wood Memorial (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1) in 2013. Three years ago, the highly regarded Tacitus won this race en route to a win in the Wood and an official third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He also set the stakes record for the 1 1/16-mile race when he logged 1:41.90.
Two years ago, King Guillermo stunned the field and posted a 4 ¾-length upset at odds of nearly 50-1 before finishing a game second to Nadal in the Arkansas Derby (G1). The Uncle Mo colt, who is owned by former baseball player Victor Martinez’s Victoria Ranch, hasn’t won a race in the two years since, unfortunately, with his best performance earning a fourth in an overnight handicap at Gulfstream Park last November.
Last year, D.J. Stables’ Helium remained undefeated with his Tampa Bay Derby win, but after an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby he has only earned three third-place finishes in three starts and hasn’t started since the Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes at Charles Town last August.
The Tampa Bay Derby is again a significant stop on Triple Crown trail and offers “Road to the Derby” points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top-four finishers, virtually guaranteeing the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby gate.
Six jockeys – Daniel Centeno, Eibar Coa, Richard Migliore, Pat Day, John Velazquez, and Jose Ortiz each have ridden two winners of this race to tie as leading rider, while Todd Pletcher has saddled five winners, including four of the last nine (Limehouse, 2004; Verrazano, 2013; Carpe Diem, 2015; Destin, 2016; and Tapwrit, 2017).
Five winners of the Sam F. Davis, the traditional prep for this race, have gone on to win the Tampa Bay Derby — Phantom Jet (1987), Speedy Cure (1991), Marco Bay (1993), Thundering Storm (1996) and Burning Roma (2001) and this year the connections of Classic Causeway seek to send out a sixth.
Rain and thunderstorms are expected in the Tampa area on Saturday with the high reaching about 80 degrees. The Tampa Bay Derby is one of five stakes races – four graded — on the card and will be the 11th with a post time of 5:23 p.m. ET.
The field for the Tampa Bay Derby, in post-position order with jockeys, trainers and morning line odds, is:
Declaration of War—Darby Blush, by Arch
Upstart—Creative Trick, by Creative Cause
Runhappy—Bible Belt, by Pulpit
Giant’s Causeway—Private World, by Thunder Gulch
Giant’s Causeway—Game for More, by More Than Ready
Ghostzapper–Golden Scarf, by Orientate
Strike Hard (Luis Saez, Matthew Williams), 8-1
Flashback—Coco’s Sweetie, by Tenpins
Major General (Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher), 9-2
Constitution—No Mo Lemons, by Uncle Mo
Midshipman—Regal Approach, by Thunder Gulch
Hard Spun—Miss Prytania. By Eskendereya
Money Supply (Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown), 10-1
Practical Joke—Evita’s Sister, by Candy Ride
Hard Spun—Zinzay, by Smart Strike
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.