After a massive Saturday of racing last weekend at Gulfstream Park, things heat up on Florida’s west coast this weekend with the running of the Grade 2 $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby.
The mile and a sixteenth event over the main track is one of three Kentucky Derby prep races held in North America this Saturday that reward 50 qualifying points to the victor and marks the eleventh race on Tampa’s twelve race card.
A late Pick 4 sequence that includes the feature begins with a strong rendition of the Grade 2 Hillsborough in Race 9 and concludes with an $8k claimer for horses that have yet to win twice.
Here are my thoughts on the late Pick 4:
The aforementioned $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for fillies and mares four years old and upward gets things started.
#2 Off Limits had an amazing 2017 winning 5 of 6 races, including a last to first effort under a picture perfect ride from Joel Rosario in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Del Mar in late November. The daughter of Mastercraftsman is hard to overlook based on the four-race win streak she brings in with her, but there are a few concerns.
Firstly, the Martin Schwartz owned mare may need a race to be at her best given the three and a half month layoff. Secondly, she has yet to prove her late run will be as effective at nine furlongs. Finally, it is unclear whether there will be enough early pace to setup her patented late run. With multiple reasons that she may not be at her best on Saturday, I will take a shot against the Chad Brown trainee.
#9 La Coronel is also likely to take her fair share of action as she makes her second start of the year for trainer Mark Casse. The daughter of Colonel John should find herself prominently placed and has every right to move forward in a big way in her second try off the four-month freshening. That being said her morning line price is awfully short given the quality of this group.
I will still use La Coronel, but will also include a few others that are likely to provide more separation in New York bred #3 Fourstar Crook and #10 Proctor’s Ledge.
The second leg of the late Pick 4 on Tampa Bay Derby Day is the Grade 3 Florida Oaks.
A will live and die with a pair of European imports from the Chad Brown barn since this just in….Chad is good.
#2 Altea makes her first start in the States after a win and three runner-up efforts in five tries in France and attracts the services of Eclipse Award winning rider Jose Ortiz.
#12 Salsa Bella came running late, but missed by less than a length in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant in February at Gulfstream Park. If either filly runs her race it should be another graded stakes win for Brown.
The Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby drew a field of 11 probables, but both #6 Enticed and #7 Free Drop Billy have been cross-entered in the Gotham. It is believed both colts will run in New York if weather permits them to travel without issue.
Sam F. Davis winner #5 Flameaway leads the field for the $400,000 event run at a mile and a sixteenth over the main track. The John C. Oxley owned colt took advantage of a lone lead in his second start of 2018 and held off Catholic Boy late to earn his fifth win in seven tries.
I respect Flameaway’s resume, but he is going to have to win on Saturday from off the pace given the presence of #8 World of Trouble. The Florida bred has two wins and a second sprinting for trainer Jason Servis and is all but certain to be winging it on an uncontested early lead. It remains to be seen whether World of Trouble can get two turns, but he will take them as far as he can.
I will include the sprinter-stretching out as well as a couple of colts that should benefit if they go too fast early on.
#3 Vino Rosso put forth a career best 100 BRIS Speed Rating last time out in the Sam F. Davis and should move forward in his second start of the form cycle. It is not hard to envision him turning the tables on Flameaway.
#2 Tiz Mischief was a well-beaten third in the Grade 2 Holy Bull, but gets a rider upgrade to Joel Rosario and should be rolling late if they go at it on the backstretch. He will need a career best effort though to out kick Vino Rosso.
The Pick 4 ends with a low level conditional claimer at seven panels.
I will use class dropper #8 Laser Focus, five-year-old gelding #5 Tap Speed and Whisper Hill Farm’s #2 Indy Wars.
($.50 Pick 4)
Race 9: 3+9+10
Race 10: 2+12
Race 11: 2+3+8
Race 12: 2+5+8