Tampa Bay Downs: The Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/6 miles
#1 Striding Ahead (10-1 ML): Exits a resounding gate-to-wire maiden win over the track and distance, and that was also his first start of the year, so it looks like he’s really grown up since disappointing in his lone start last August. And while this is a major step up in class, it’s not like anyone else in this field has ever run fast in their life, so it seems like a logical move. The fact that Mott would send him right into this GII off a single maiden win speaks volumes about his confidence in a colt that might be getting good at the right time; thinking he makes a big impact in here.
#2 Economic Summit (8-1): October Belmont maiden winner makes his first start at 3 and first start at two turns in a mighty ambitious spot, but it’s getting to be that time of the year when the graded stakes money is at a premium. Got walloped pretty good last fall at Aqueduct in the GII Nashua and while this is a softer spot, he’s entering with some big hurdles to conquer; can’t see him around when the real running begins.
#3 Beamer (10-1): Expected a lot more out of him in the Sam Davis, the local prep, and while he didn’t run poorly, he didn’t kick it in through the lane like expected. Nice to see that Nafzger brings him back for more today, and that was his first start against graded foes, so he is eligible to improve, and he better because the water gets a lot deeper in here; seems like a minor award might be his ceiling.
#4 Uncle Mo (3-5): Juvenile Champion is expected to scratch and kick off his 3yo campaign in a minor stakes Saturday at Gulfstream.
#5 Too Experience (8-1): Decent second behind Brethren in the Davis but he wasn’t making much headway late in a race that came back painfully slow for the class level. Useful runner has a nice stalking gear that should put him in a good spot turning for home, but he’s going to need to kick it in a bit stronger in the stretch to bridge the gap today; taking a stand against in all slots.
#6 Crimson Knight (50-1): Claimed for 16k out of a winning turf effort to presumably run here, and though he owns a local win, he’s up against in just about every handicapping angle you can think of; longshot.
#7 Free Entry (7-2): Talented new shooter has been visually impressive in a pair of one-turn GP wins this winter and now he takes the next step in the hopes of landing on the Derby Trail. In expert hands with Brown calling the shots, and it’s nice to see Garcia come in for the ride on a colt that has the look of an exciting prospect in a race begging for a fast, fresh face to spoil the party. Capable of running on or near what’s expected to be a modest pace and should have every shot to get the job done in a very subpar renewal of this GII; call to post the mild surprise.
#8 Moonhanger (20-1): Ran off to an 11-length maiden win over the track and distance and then followed that up with a good second in a N1X on the turf. Back to the main track today for his first try against graded runners, and while he’s a bit outgunned on paper, it’s not like he’s got to improve leaps and bounds to make an impact here; not at the top of the list but won’t argue if you think he’s the bomber that could spice up the exotics.
#9 Watch Me Go (12-1): Third in the Davis after racing close up early in what was his first attempt at two turns, so at least he’s got some upside and room for improvement. Tough to think he can make up five lengths on Brethren and get the better of Free Entry as well, but he’ll be a decent price if you’re a believer; midpack finish seems likely.
#10 Brethren (1-1): Super Saver’s little brother ran his lifetime mark to 3-for-3 with a romp in the Davis, but it’s fair to say that Chuck Yeager’s feats of speed aren’t in jeopardy anytime soon. Sure, he could have run a bit faster that day should Ramon have asked him, but the bottom line is that if he weren’t trained by Pletcher and wasn’t kin to a Derby winner, most people would be trashing him for running relatively slow in all three lifetime starts. He doesn’t meet much today, but at odds-on from the outside post, you’re allowed to try and beat a colt that until this point hasn’t run remotely fast enough to win anything of any importance; trying to beat on top.
#7 Free Entry
#1 Striding Ahead