Eleven 3-year-olds were entered for Saturday’s $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (GII), the centerpiece 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.
Four graded-stakes winners were entered, including Breeders’ Futurity (GI) winner Free Drop Billy and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) hero Enticed, but both caught the Tex Sutton charter to New York and will instead run in the Gotham Stakes (GIII).
So, who is left to challenge?
The Tampa Bay Derby has produced two winners of the Kentucky Derby: Street Sense, who won it in 2007, and Super Saver, who finished third in 2010. Looking to follow them this year is two-time Grade 3 winner Flameaway, who won the Sam F. Davis Stakes (GIII) a month ago earning a big 101 Brisnet speed figure, which was the best and highest speed figure so far in his career. This $400,000 son of Scat Daddy, who won the grassy Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park , also captured the Bourbon Stakes (GIII) over a sloppy Keeneland track in October and also won a little non-graded stakes in the mud at Saratoga last August, which will help him since there’s a chance for rain in the afternoon.
The Mark Casse trainee is consistent in that he either wins or clunks out, but has always had an excuse for his poor performances, and his versatile running style should only help, but he’ll probably be on the lead regardless. Jose Lezcano returns on the John Oxley-owned colt and the pair will break from the middle, which is a good spot to gain a good early postion.
Michael Dubb and Bethlehem Stables’ World of Trouble has dominated in two of his three career starts, breaking his maiden by 14 lengths last August and, then, winning by 13 ¾ lengths in a seven-furlong non-graded stakes six weeks ago. He has improved in each start, numbers-wise, and his last race Brisnet speed figure of 101 makes him a tough competitor here. Irad Ortiz picks up the mount on the Jason Servis trainee and, while the son of Kantharos has yet to race around two turns and appears to have a sprinter’s pedigree, he has shown himself a talented racehorse. He may have caught a good spot here to earn some Derby points.
Vino Rosso, back after a third-place finish in the Sam Davis, will be attempting to give trainer Todd Pletcher a sixth win in this event and his fourth in a row. The Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable-owned son of Curlin won his first two races last year in maiden and allowance company before his inaugural graded stakes attempt last out and has been training strongly and consistently all year. If he’s fit and ready, he doesn’t need to improve a whole lot to have an impact on the top order of finish. He adds blinkers and will likely be part of the early pace scenario under Pletcher’s go-to rider John Velazquez.
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Untamed Domain makes his seventh start, but his first over a dirt surface. The son of Animal Kingdom, who is trained by Graham Motion, was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GIT) and, then, was the beaten favorite in the Dania Beach Stakes (GIIIT) at Gulfstream Park last out. He’s a good horse, but, as a solid turfer, may be over his head against this bunch.
Tiz Mischief has had a couple of nice graded stakes showings and has found a good spot to return for Dale Romans with his more highly regarded stablemate Free Drop Billy running in New York. He has posted consistent numbers and is a good bet for any exotics.
Quip has been off for more than three months after a troubled trip in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs Thanksgiving weekend. He’s been training well all year at Fair Grounds and if gets back to the form he showed winning his first two races, he could have a say for Rodolphe Brisset.
Grandpa Knows Best is riding a two-race win streak that includes his maiden and an allowance score at this distance. He moves up in class off a four-month break but has been training consistently since the end of January at Payson Park. He may need a race to be competitive against this level.
Former claimer Arazi Like Move leads the field to post and is 50-1 on the morning line for a reason: he has barely picked up his feet since breaking his maiden for a $40,000 tag at Delaware last August. Hard to imagine the Loooch Racing Stables runner will be a factor here.
Former claimer Caloric is hopelessly overmatched though he has won his last two in claiming company and was claimed both times.
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.