A lot of
questions will be answered after the 2013 edition of the Tampa Bay Derby is run
on Saturday. With eight horses (Park City is likely to be scratched in favor of
the Rebel Stakes) ready to take the post, every horse in the field has
something to prove, including the current individual Kentucky Derby favorite,
Pletcher trainee could not have looked better in two easy wins in South
Florida, but he still has much to prove as he takes on much better competition.
While the pedigree suggests that distance should not be an issue, Verrazano has
yet to race around two turns. Pletcher is not concerned with the distance, and
likely should not be, but it will still be new territory for the young More
Than Ready colt.
An even bigger concern has to be
going from the speed favoring Gulfstream surface to the deep and tiring Tampa
Bay Downs surface. Throughout the Tampa Bay Downs meet, several horses have
shipped from Gulfstream, gone off as favorites, and disappointed, likely due to
the surface change. How Verrazano adapts to the new surface will likely be the
main factor in determining his success on Saturday.
Beyond the well-deserved favorite,
there are many other questions to be answered throughout the field. Three
additional horses will be trying two turns for the first time and two horses
are coming off layoffs of over three months.
Purple Egg is the one horse that
falls into both categories. While the Lion Heart gelding has been much the best
in all three starts, he has battled injuries throughout the first part of 2013.
High percentage trainer, Jane Cibelli, is sure to have him ready, but returning
from a long layoff and trying two turns for the first time will be a stiff
challenge against this competition.
Honorable Dillon is an intriguing
entry out of the Eddie Kenneally barn, but another that will be routing for the
first time. The Hutcheson winner has been training great since his early
February victory and Kenneally is very confident in his young colt. The
pedigree suggests two turns should not be an issue as sire, Tapit, won the Wood
Memorial at 1 1/8th, but whether his son has the same endurance
remains to be answered.
The two horses in the field that have
fewer questions surrounding them are Dynamic Sky and Falling Sky. Both horses
have experience over the track at this distance as the 1-2 finishers in the
Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. In the February 2nd race, Falling Sky was able
to take the field wire to wire, but will once again be leaving from an outside
post, a concern considering the quick first turn at Tampa Bay and the speed to
his inside in the form of Offlee Fast.
Dynamic Sky finished a close 2nd
in the Sam F. Davis, while once again racing erratically in the stretch-
something that has become a common occurrence for the Mark Casse trained colt.
Casse makes a positive rider switch to Joel Rosario, but Dynamic Sky will have
to do some growing up to beat the Tampa Bay Derby field on Saturday.
While there are several questions
to be answered in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby, the answers that come out of it
could go a long way to determining who will wear the roses the first Saturday
Written by Jon Pauss