The entries for Saturday’s 32nd running of the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby have been finalized with a full field of 12 3-year-olds, including a pair of 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile participants, a recent Grade III stakes winner and a lightly raced colt from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher that “could be any kind.”
Take Charge Indy, who finished fifth in the Juvenile last November despite a troubled trip, joins Grade III Sam F. Davis 1-2 finishers Battle Hardened and Prospective as the standouts for the mile-and-a-sixteenth Tampa Bay Downs showcase.
The Tampa Bay Derby is part of the track’s annual Festival Day, which also features the 14th renewal of the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares at about a mine-and-an-eighth on the turf and the 32nd annual $100,000 Stonewall Farm Ocala Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-40-yards on the main dirt surface.
Take Charge Indy, by prolific sire and 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, out of multiple-Grade I winner Take Charge Lady, made his 3-year-old debut Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park in a mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance optional claiming race.
Take Charge Indy finished second to El Padrino, who subsequently won the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Owned by Chuck and Maribeth Sandford LLC and Secure Investments and trained by Patrick Byrne, Take Charge Indy worked five furlongs at Palm Meadows on Feb. 26 in 1:01 1/5 and went four furlongs Sunday in 47 3/5.
Byrne trained such outstanding horses as 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick, 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold and 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again. The jockey of Take Charge Indy will be Calvin Borel, who won the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby and Kentucky Derby on Street Sense and won three of four runnings of the Kentucky Derby from 2007-2010.
Take Charge Indy drew the No. 10 post position.
Over the next few days, handicappers will debate the merits of having a race over the Tampa Bay Downs surface, a possible advantage enjoyed by Battle Hardened and Prospective.
Battle Hardened – trained by Eddie Kenneally and to be ridden again by Julien Leparoux – broke his maiden winning the Feb. 4, Grade III Sam F. Davis by a length-and-a-quarter from Prospective, who actually has two races over the Oldsmar oval.
Prospective, who is trained by Mark Casse and will be ridden by regular jockey Luis Contreras, captured the $100,000 Pasco Stakes with a furious stretch rally here Jan. 14. Prospective ran last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but a month earlier won the Grade III Grey Stakes at Woodbine in Toronto.
Pletcher’s charge is Spring Hill Farm, an impeccably-bred son of Smart Strike-Colonial Minstrel, by Pleasant Colony, who is 2-for-2 in his brief racing career, both victories this year at Gulfstream. He will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
The full field in post position order: No. 1, Prospective; No. 2, Golden Ticket; No. 3, Twin; No. 4, Chief Energy; No. 5, Tell All You Know; No. 6, Cozzetti; No. 7, Battle Hardened; No. 8, Ravelo’s Boy; No. 9, Spring Hill Farm; No. 10, Take Charge Indy; No. 11, Fox Rules; and No. 12, Cajun Charlie. The Tampa Bay Derby is the 11th race on a 12-race card.
The 10-horse field for the Hillsborough Stakes is headed by Grade I winner Zagora and 2011 Hillsborough winner Denomination. Zagora, a 5-year-old mare owned by Martin Schwartz and trained by Chad Brown, made a successful 2012 debut here on Feb. 4, winning the Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes by an easy two-and-a-quarter lengths from Exclusive Love. Castellano returns for the riding assignment.
Now 6-year-old Denomination used her victory in last year’s Hillsborough as a springboard to a stellar campaign that included victories in the Grade III Violet and the Grade III Athenia for owner Ghislaine Head and trainer Christophe Clement. Leparoux has been named to ride Saturday.
Others who should see significant play at the betting windows are the Thomas Proctor-trained Snow Top Mountain, winner of the Grade III Suwanee River at Gulfstream on Feb. 11; the H. Graham Motion-conditioned Unbridled Humor, winner of the Grade III Noble Damsel at Belmont in September; and the Shirley Girten-Drake-trained Hooh Why, who won the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf in January at Gulfstream.
The Hillsborough will be contested as the 10th race Saturday. Here is the field in post position order: No. 1, Sea Level Drive; No. 2, Megaspiel; No. 3, Hooh Why; No. 4, Last Full Measure; No. 5, Denomination; No. 6, Unbridled Humor; No. 7, Zagora; No. 8, Federation; No. 9, Gold d’Oro; and No. 10, Snow Top Mountain.
A field of eight 3-year-olds will face the starter in the Suncoast, to be run as the ninth race. Borel will ride Modulate, who broke her maiden Feb. 12 at Gulfstream despite a slow start. The daughter of Mizzen Mast-Mesmeric, by A.P. Indy, is owned by Juddmonte Farms, Inc. and trained by 2012 Eclipse Award winner William Mott.
Two others who loom as possible wagering favorites are the Kenneally-trained Force de La Nature, a Grade III-placed filly who will be ridden by Leparoux; and Wait Til Dawn, a Pletcher-trainee who will be piloted by Castellano.
The full field in post position order: No. 1, Macanuda; No. 2, Modulate; No. 3, Melrose Woods; No. 4, Wait Til Dawn; No. 5, Mercy Lou; No. 6, Ciguaraya; No. 7, Force de La Nature; and No. 8, Prothoe.