by Margaret Ransom
A field of 11 sophomores is expected for Saturday’s $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (GII), the main event of the Tampa Bay Downs winter racing season. The 1 1/16-mile race offers 50 points to the winner, as well as 20, 10 and 5 to the next three finishers, to make the gate for the Kentucky Derby in eight weeks.
The Tampa Bay Derby has produced two winners of the Kentucky Derby: Street Sense in 2007 and Super Saver, who finished third here in 2010. Tapwrit won this race in 2017 before going on to win the Belmont Stakes (GI) and Verrazano won the Tampa Bay Derby before winning the Wood Memorial (GI) and Haskell Invitiational (GI) in 2013. He also owns the stakes record still, clocking the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.36.
Five jockeys — Daniel Centeno, Eibar Coa, Richard Migliore, Pat Day and John Velazquez — each own two wins in this race to tie as leading rider, while Todd Pletcher has saddled five winners, including four of the last six (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). This year, Sam Davis winner Well Defined is back in an attempt to make it six.
It’s going to be a beautiful and warm day on Saturday with highs in the low 80s and partly cloudy skies. The Tampa Bay Derby is one of five big stakes races on the card and will be the 11th with a post time of 5:25 p.m. ET.
The field for the Tampa Bay Derby is:
This $360,000 son of Cairo Prince raced a flat fifth in the Withers Stakes (GIII) in his stakes debut a month ago after breaking his maiden at Churchill over a sloppy surface going nine furlongs at the end of November. He carries some high-profile connections in trainer Dale Romans and jockey Robby Albarado, but both have yet to win a Tampa Bay Derby.
Trainer Mark Casse sired Prospective to win this race in 2012 and, this year, sends out Tracy Farmer’s Sir Winston, a well-bred, homebred son of Awesome Again who won a stakes at Woodbine before finishing fourth in the Withers. Though he goes to his often-used rider Julien Leparoux (they’ve been winning at a 33 percent clip as a team for the past two months), the rider hasn’t won a Tampa Bay Derby yet.
Faces winners for the first time after breaking his maiden last out. Trainer Jordan Blair has yet to saddle a stakes winner and Jose Bracho seeks his first graded win as a jockey out of nearly 170 previous winners.
Another one from Casse, this John Oxley homebred son of Tapit is coming off an impressive 8 ½-length allowance win at this distance a month ago at Gulfstream Park. Jockey Florent Geroux was aboard Quip for the win here a year ago.
The Sam F. Davis (and In Reality Stakes) winner hasn’t missed a beat since winning his first graded event last out. Trainer Kathleen O’Connell won this race with Watch Me Go in 2011 and jockey Pablo Morales will be in search of his first win in the Tampa Bay Derby aboard this Florida-bred son of With Distinction.
This $625,000 son of Malibu Moon seeks to give Pletcher his sixth win in this race off a seven-furlong allowance win at Gulfstream Park a month ago. Top jockey Joel Rosario, who doesn’t ride much for Pletcher overall, will be in town to ride, taking the reins from John Velazquez who is in New York for the day to ride Mind Control in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
Win Win Win
The 5-2 morning line favorite, this seven-length winner of the Pasco Stakes six weeks ago returns and hasn’t missed a beat in his training. Trainer Mike Trombetta has tapped Irad Ortiz Jr. to replace Juan Pimentel in the saddle for this son of Hat Trick’s first graded attempt. Neither trainer nor jockey have won a Tampa Bay Derby.
The Right Path
This son of Quality Road represents a first Tampa Bay Derby starter for trainer Jorge Duarte Jr. and while jockey Joe Bravo has ridden in it before, he has yet to win it. This Colts Neck Stable hombred makes his stakes debut off a very troubled third (placed second after a disqualification) versus allowance company at Gulfstream last out.
Well-beaten after a troubled trip in the Risen Star, this son of Temple City has two wins from five starts and perhaps some distance questions, but he does own a nice third in the Remington Sprinboard Mile in December. Daniel Centeno, with two previous Tampa Bay Derby wins, takes over on this $27,500, 2-year-old in training purchase for the first time. Mike Maker trains in search of his first win in this stakes.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott won this race back in 1997 with Zede for the late, great owner Allen Paulson and, this year, sends out this son of Tapit and the multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Close Hatches (by First Defence) for owner/breeder Juddmonte Farms. He will have first time Lasix in his first start of 2019 and in his stakes debut after breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in early November. Jose Ortiz, who rode Tapwrit to victory two years ago, rides this colt.
Makes a first start since a decent second in the Swale Stakes (GII) at seven furlongs a month ago and this will be his first route attempt in his fourth start. Jockey Samy Camacho has won nearly 450 races, but never a graded stakes, and Zenden’s trainer is also winless in graded events.
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.