Tampa Bay Downs: The $400,000 GII Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 50-20-10-5)
by Brian Nadeau
#1 Admire (12-1): Lightly-raced runner from Romans has logged some frequent flier miles this winter, as he’s been training in Florida, made his stakes debut when a decent fifth in Aqueduct’s GIII Withers last month, and now heads to Florida’s other coast to try to secure some ever-important Derby points. Son of Cairo Prince made a big leap forward last time, in what was his 3-year-old debut, and, while he’s not necessarily ones of the ones in here, he won’t have to improve that much more, from a perfect draw, to be in the mix here, either; hardly impossible.
#2 Sir Winston (12-1): Fellow Withers runner and the first of two for Casse was fourth in South Ozone Park, and a half-length ahead of his buddy next door, while routing on the main track for the first time, so he too has a right to make a jump forward today. Versatile son of Awesome Again is another that got helped by the draw, and there’s enough pace here to think he can make a dent late, and if you like Admire, then you have to like this colt, too; can contend.
#3 Lord Dragon (30-1): Longshot finally broke through in his sixth lifetime start to beat local maidens by a head, and while Jordan has had a decent meet with limited starters, this son of Oxbow is in way over his head; easy toss.
#4 Dream Maker (4-1): The more fancied of the Casse pair comes in off a romp in a Fair Grounds optional-claimer last month, in what was his seasonal debut, and judging by that 8 1/4-length score, he sure grew up from the hoss who was 12th of 13 when last seen in the GI Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October. Son of Tapit is bred to be a star and has trained lights-out since his breakthrough win last time, while showing a stalking gear that should allow him an ideal trip just off the speed in what is a big field. The price is a little false here, and he does have to class up, too, but it’s also pretty clear that he looks like a much better horse this year, which makes him a major player today; expecting another big run.
#5 Well Defined (7-2): Speedy son of With Distinction wired the local prep, the GIII Sam F. Davis last time, and looks like the one to catch again today, though he may not clear on the lead as easily as he did in that one. Underrated sort has only one real blemish on his resume going two turns, and that was a 12th of 13 in the BC Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November, so he needs to be taken seriously here, though this field is a lot tougher than the one he faced last month. If they let him clear, he may not come back, but the gut says he’ll get a little more pressure today, which will be his undoing in the lane; making him prove it.
#6 Outshine (8-1): One of the seemingly last remaining bullets for Pletcher will look to put his soon-to-be Hall of Fame trainer on the Triple Crown trail, and that comeback sprint win at Gulfstream Park in an optional-claimer last month was a step in the right direction. Son of Malibu Moon has never run past seven furlongs, but he’s bred to do it, and his running style around one-turn figures to have him just off the inside speed of ‘Defined, while allowing him to have first run on the stalker/closers. Yes, this is a step up, but that return win—off an eight-month layoff—was very solid, and the price will be right, all for a trainer who has used this Tampa route with plenty of success in the past; upset special.
#7 Win Win Win (5-2): The wildcard may be the morning-line favorite, which seems entirely likely at post time, too, but he’s also yet to run two turns in four starts, so he does have that potential hurdle to jump over. Trombetta-trained son of Hat Trick is bred to run on, and he’s shown in his wins, including the local Pasco blowout in January, that he can settle early and pounce late, which bodes well for the added ground he gets here. He also figures to be close today on the stretch-out, and he’s passed every test they’ve given him so far, so while this one has the hardest questions to date, it would be no surprise if he’s got the right answer once again; looms the one to beat.
#8 The Right Path (15-1): Price player goes for a Duarte barn that has been firing at GP this winter, and note that he was favored to Outshine last time when checking in a decent third in his first start against winners. Son of Quality Road is bred to handle his two-turn debut, and he too should be close to the proceedings early, but this looks like a little too much too soon at this point; not seeing it.
#9 Dunph (20-1): Longshot didn’t run an inch when 11th in Fair Grounds’ GII Risen Star last month for Maker and now ships to try and get away from heavy hitter War of Will, though making a dent here won’t be easy, either. Temple City gelding really hasn’t fired since a stakes win in the one-turn Street Sense at CD last October, so unless he’s going to turn back time, he’s not a player here; needs much softer to threaten.
#10 Tacitus (10-1): Returnee hasn’t been out since breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in his second start in November but adds Lasix, and as a Juddmonte homebred son of Tapit out of the multiple GI winner Close Hatches, you know he’s bred to be a star, and it’s not like Mott to run them where they don’t belong. Tactical sort will try two turns here, but he’s obviously bred to relish the trip, and the works leading up to this have been extremely sharp, for a patient barn that is surprisingly loaded with high-quality 3yos this year. Yes, this is a tall order off the bench, while facing winners, and trying two turns, but there’s talent aplenty here, and when a Hall of Fame trainer that is known to take his time with his young horses shows up in a spot like this, you better darn well take notice; very intriguing.
#11 Zenden (8-1): Yet another that will try two turns, this son of Fed Biz was a good third in GP’s GIII Swale last month for high-percentage trainer Barbosa, who rarely ships away from his home base. Tactical sort will be wide for much of the running here, which is a negative, and this ML seems a bit short, though he does appear to have some talent and isn’t too far off the best here on paper; minor award may be his ceiling.
#7 Win Win Win
#4 Dream Maker