|Ring Weekend—(Tapit -
Free the Magic, by Cryptoclearance) is jumping from the maiden ranks into a
Grade 2. Colts at this later stage on
the Derby trail rarely win with this angle, especially when it takes five
starts to win. The Chestnut son of
Tapit likely takes after his distaff line, as Ring Weekend’s damsire was a
two-time winner at 1 ¼ miles and placed in the Belmont Stakes. Despite an impressive win at Gulfstream
from a far outside post last time out, I’ll pass on Ring Weekend in this
took 5 attempts, but Ring Weekend is a maiden no more. After running in two
off-turf events, a synthetic race, and a turf race, Motion tried this son of
Tapit on fast dirt, and the chestnut gelding took to it like a pig to mud.
Switched to dirt for the first time last out, the gelding pressed the pace
early before taking over and prevailing by a length. As Laurie pointed out, beating
maidens and beating stakes winners are two completely different stories. I
don’t see anything here that has me particularly excited. Pass.
U S A—(Roman Ruler
- Cape Hope, by Cape Town) had a good prep for the Tampa Bay Derby at
Gulfstream. He finished second by 2 ¾ lengths to the highly rated Top
Billing. The Pletcher trainee needed the prep and should be fit for this
start, especially since he worked a 4 furlong bullet in his second to last
breeze. Surfing U S A’s dam is a Grade 3 winner over the lawn. Expect the dark bay colt to be in the first
wave of runners. Contender.
|Surfing U S A—Last out,
Surfing U S A had no answer for Top Billing on the front end, ultimately
finishing 2 ¾ lengths back in second. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the colt had
a nice bullet half-mile work on Feb 23, but his work on March 2 (4 furlongs
in :51 flat) was not something I like to see right before a race. Maybe at
the right price.
|Matador—(Malibu Moon - I'm Breathtaking,
by Elusive Quality) was my longshot pick in the Sam F. Davis, which was his
first race since the previous November.
The Mark Casse trainee gave a good account, beaten only a length while
rallying from off of the pace.
Matador’s dam is a half-sister to graded stakes winners Golden Itiz
and Sapphire N’ Silk, the dam of graded stakes winner Shaniko. Another half-sister bore Breeders' Cup Filly
& Mare Turf heroine Shared Account.
Matador fired a pre-race bullet five furlongs at Palm Meadows. He
should be tighter for the Tampa Bay Derby.
Although he’s yet to put it together for a victory over dirt Matador
could take the field by the horns and place in the exotics again.
Matador—Olé! No stranger to running with
the bulls, Matador makes the Tampa Bay Derby his 6th consecutive
stakes race. In fact, the Malibu Moon colt has raced exclusively in stakes
and broke his maiden in the $250,000 Cup and Saucer Stakes in his third
career start. Last out he rallied to grab 4th in the Sam F. Davis,
but if he wants to be el matador de
toros, he is going to have to find more as he faces many of the same foes
here plus a couple of tough newcomers. Pass.
Brew - Certainly Special, by Distorted Humor) is making his first start since
last December. The Tampa Bay Derby also marks Coltimus Prime’s first start
over the dirt. He has the pedigree for
it, being by a Santa Anita Handicap winner and damsire Distorted Humor gets
all types. Coltimus Prime is a full
brother to the Canadian stakes winner Crysta’s Court. Trainer Justin Nixon has good stats, but
this colt will need an autobot boost to win here. Pass.
|Coltimus Prime—If you’re a
fan of Optimus Prime, then here’s the hunch bet for you! Never a factor in
his debut, Coltimus Prime learned a few things along the way and bounced back
smartly to break his maiden at second asking by 8 lengths at Woodbine. He
followed that up with a close loss in the Display Stakes; the winner that day
is a dual stakes winner. He has no dirt experience, but his morning works
over the surface have been good. It has also been my experience that Woodbine
runners are able to transfer their form pretty well to Tampa Bay, so a score
here from a Woodbine shipper would not be unheard of. I do think he’s in deep
here, though. Pass.
|Conquest Titan—(Birdstone -
Miner's Secret, by Mineshaft) has the lung power to run all day. He put forth
a good effort in the Holy Bull, circling the field and conquering second
place. He was no match for Cairo Prince, but to circle the field from
eleventh place is no easy feat over the extremely speed-favoring Gulfstream
strip. Plus, it was his first race as a three year old. Conquest Titan finds an easier group here.
talk about how speed favoring Gulfstream is, so when a horse is able to make
up tons of ground from off the pace, it’s big news. Conquest Titan is one of
those colts that made up a good bit a ground when getting up for 2nd
in the G2 Holy Bull back in January. Idle since then, the Birdstone colt has
been breezing regularly for trainer Mark Casse. He stands a very good chance
of turning that second place finish at Gulfstream into a win here. Contender.
Vinceremos—(Pioneerof the Nile - Kettle's
Sister, by More Than Ready) will attempt to pull off the Sam F. Davis/Tampa
Bay Derby double. The last colt to
accomplish this feat was Burning Roma in 2001. His late developing pedigree
and speed figures indicate that this colt is moving forward. One thing about
the offspring of Pioneerof the Nile – they are tough horses who don’t quit.
The stable mate of Surfing U S A has won his last two by a head and
nose. Major contender.
|Vinceremos—Like the more famous Pioneerof the
Nile colt Cairo Prince, Vinceremos likes to run near the lead. Unlike Cairo
Prince, he still has a few quirks to iron out. Last out in the local prep,
the Sam F. Davis, Vinceremos had every opportunity to be a runaway winner, but
instead of focusing on the task at hand, the colt idled on the lead and just
did re-rally for the win. Jockey Edgar Prado saved the day with a smart ride,
and if that issue hasn’t been corrected, it will take another well timed ride
by the Hall of Famer to hold off the more competitive TB Derby field.
Contender…And I’m hoping for Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
|East Hall—(Graeme Hall
- East Long Lake, by Sultry Song) is the veteran of the
field with eleven starts under his girth. He was my longshot pick for the
Fountain of Youth and passed rivals to finish fourth. This is a tractable colt, who has shown
that he can put forth a good effort from just about anywhere in the
pack. East Hall’s dam is a half to
three stakes winners and two stakes placed runners. The drawback here is that
his trainer is 0-26 with shippers.
Consider for exotics.
afraid to say that I’ve changed my tune when it comes to this gelding. I did
not like him at all going into the Fountain of Youth last out, but he ran a
bang up race that he is not getting nearly enough credit for. Just like 3rd
place finisher Top Billing, East Hall closed from the very back of the field
to run 4th, beaten just 6 ½ lengths, over Gulfstream’s speed
favoring surface. Laurie had him as an exotics contender in the FOY, and he
did just what she expected. So Laurie, y’all convinced me. With the playing
ground more fair at Tampa Bay Downs, I expect to see a duplication of his FOY
effort, one that might just propel him to the winner’s circle this time.
Ignore at your own risk.
Citizen - Gallant Dreamer, by Belong to Me) fought gallantly but just missed
by ¾ length in the Sam F. Davis. He’s making the third start off a layoff and
will likely be on the lead or pressing the pace, since he owns the highest
early pace speed figure in the field.
I think this group is a bit tougher than the runners in the Sam F.
Davis so I’ll toss.
|Cousin Stephen—Showing the
way through the early stages of the Sam F. Davis, Cousin Stephen stubbornly
hung around to hold 3rd, beaten by just ¾-length. I have to agree
with Laurie here. With the added talent in this field, the Brown trainee will
need to step it up a notch…or several…to replicate that effort. Thanks, but
|Hy Kodiak Warrior—(Kodiak
Kowboy - Aheadnotatail, by Unbridled) put in a good performance against the
well regarded Commissioner and Top Billing in his last. Closing from sixth place over the speedy
Gulfstream track, the Chestnut colt made up a little ground in the stretch
and was beaten only 2 ¼ lengths for all the apples. He previously beat rival
East Hall in an allowance race. Hy Kodiak Warrior’s second dam is a multiple
G-3 winner. His conditioning was
taking over by Marcial Navarro, and that trainer is 11% with first timers
from his barn. Hy Kodiak Warrior owns
some pretty high late pace speed figures, but he might have a slight
disadvantage over this slightly speed favoring track and could be penalized
by his outside post. Exotics bet.
sprinter Kodiak Kowboy, Hy Kodiak Warrior has been firing off bullet works
faster than you can say, “Pass me the biscuits, please.” I’m not in any way
convinced that he is one that is going to want any part of the classic
distances, though this 1 1/16 distance should be within his scope. He may
have given a good accounting of himself against Top Billing and Commissioner
in his last start, but who did he beat? Out of the rest of the field, Cousin
Stephen is the only one worth mentioning at this stage of the game. Even
though he gets Lasix for the first time, I have to pass.
Dancing Deborah, by Northern Park) picked a tough spot to make his three year
old debut. He was defeated by more than five lengths in both stakes starts in
Canada last year, including a drubbing by Conquest Titian in the Swynford
Stakes. Although he’s compiled a strong, consistent breeze pattern, Tuscan Getaway
is on the far outside and trainer Ricky Griffith is 0-8 in graded stakes.
|Tuscan Getaway—He hasn’t
seen dirt since his maiden days at Delaware Park, but Tuscan Getaway has been
competitive on all three surfaces during his career thus far. He owns wins on
the dirt and synthetics and a close second on the turf in a $100,000 stake at
Belmont. Off since mid-November, the Tampa Bay Derby will be his 2014/3-year
old bow. Trainer Ricky Griffith gets 15% winners with trainees off 61-180
days and 17% winners with starters that were last out winners. Griffith may
be 0-for-8 in graded stakes races, but maybe Tuscan Getaway is the trainee
that can snap that losing streak for him. Consider for exotics.