Here I am, live from Florida! With the exception of a mild heart attack due to my husband braking suddenly upon realizing he had no cash for the toll booth and some congested traffic in Boynton Beach, we arrived without incident. This is a major accomplishment if you are at all familiar with the luck I have had on recent road trips. Now that we are here, I have only one not so minor complaint: there is no sweet tea to be found, no decent sweet tea anyway. For those of you that live outside the South and are scratching your heads over why that would be a problem, let me put it to you this way: for the true southerner, sweet tea is like liquified crack (Can I say crack in this blog??? Is that legal?). So if you happen to run into me at the track tomorrow and I am twitching and making funny faces, I am just going through withdrawals. Nothing to worry about.
But on to business. Gulfstream has the main draw this weekend in the Sunshine State, but before I get to that, I am going to meander across the state to Tampa Bay Downs.
Tomorrow is the big day at Gulfstream Park with both the Swale Stakes and the Gulfstream Park Handicap on the card. Elsewhere around the country, other Derby prep races are also in store, and Tampa Bay Downs is no exception. I have said time and again that the Sam F. Davis was the weakest Derby prep race thus far this season, and the Tampa Bay Derby does not look much better. Highly touted Spring Hill Farm will make his third career start and will face upset Sam F. Davis winner Battle Hardened. In order for the latter colt to sweep the Tampa Bay prep races, he will have to find a way to beat the speedy Todd Pletcher trainee. Fortunately for Battle Hardened, the Tampa Bay Derby is at Tampa Bay Downs and not Gulfstream Park, so the speed bias will not be in effect to aid Spring Hill Farm's front running style.
Take Charge Indy was entered, but it was announced today that he would skip the Tampa Bay Derby in favor of the Florida Derby in two weeks. Take Charge Indy had been made the second choice on the morning line and would have been a tough opponent for Battle Hardened. Despite not having found the winner's circle since breaking his maiden, the colt has put in respectable races against crackerjack competition. Colts he has faced include Hansen, Union Rags, Creative Cause, Dullahan, Majestic City, and El Padrino.
Back to face Battle Hardened again is Sam F. Davis runner-up Prospective. Prospective got hung wide all the way around in his last outing and closed furiously in the stretch drive to miss by a length and a quarter. I fully expect him to be in contention, and, with a better trip, he may just get the better of Battle Hardened this time.
Battle Hardened may be on the war path, but he faces tough competition from Spring Hill Farm and Prospective. Despite winning the Sam F. Davis and finally breaking his maiden last out, the son of Giant's Causeway did not get much respect from the oddsmakers. He was made the 9/2 third choice behind Spring Hill Farm (5/2) and Take Charge Indy (3/1 scratched). Also getting little respect from the oddsmakers is Prospective. The Pasco Stakes and G3 Grey Stakes winner was made the 8/1 fourth choice. Also entered are Golden Ticket, Twin, Chief Energy, Tell All You Know, Cozzetti, Ravelo's Boy, Fox Rules, and Cajun Charlie.
Battle Hardened has been training well at Palm Meadows, recording three works since his Sam F. Davis victory. His last work was a respectable 5 furlong move in 1:02.04 (3/10) on March 3. Giant's Causeway was very successful on the track, and has been just as successful at stud. He was the U.S. top sire in 2009 and 2010, Champion freshman sire in Europe in 2004, Champion 2-year old sire in the U.S. in 2005, and has sired multiple Grade 1 and Grade 2 winners. Battle Hardened's sire line says a lot about what he can be capable of. So far, the Sam F. Davis has been his biggest win, but he is poised to add a Grade 2 win to his resume tomorrow.