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HRN Original Blog:
From Coast to Coast

Kentucky Derby 2014: Handicapping the Tampa Bay Derby

Vinceremos SFD 615 X 400
Photo: SV Photography
Inaugurated in 1981, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby has been used as a prep for the Triple Crown races from the beginning. Paristo, winner of the inaugural edition of the race, did not run in that year’s Kentucky Derby, but he did go on to run 3rd in the Preakness and 7th in the Belmont Stakes. It was not until 2007, when Street Sense came along, for a Tampa Bay Derby winner to go on and complete the Tampa Bay/Kentucky Derby double. In finishing the 1 1/16-mile race in 1.43:11, Street Sense set a new stakes and track record for the distance. The stakes record still stands, though the track record does not. Super Saver finished third in this prep race and won in Kentucky in 2010.  Slew O Gold (1983), Menifee (1999) and Bluegrass Cat (2006) placed in the Tampa Bay Derby, and in a Triple Crown race.  
No owner, trainer, or jockey has won the Tampa Bay Derby more than twice. Eclipse award winning trainer Todd Pletcher holds the record for most trainer wins at two, and has a pair of shots  at capturing his third overall and second consecutive TB Derby. Trainer Mark Casse also came loaded, starting two entrants, too. Pletcher’s two and Casse’s two will face six other rivals for a total field of ten. The Tampa Bay Derby is part of the Road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby series. As such, points will be awarded on a 50-25-10-5 basis to the first four finishers. Without further ado, here is the field assembled for the 2014 renewal of the Tampa Bay Derby.
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 spot.
Ring Weekend—It only 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.
Surfing 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.
Coltimus Prime—(Milwaukee 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. Contender.
Conquest Titan—We always 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.
East Hall—I’m not 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.
Cousin Stephen—(Proud 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 no thanks.
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.
Hy Kodiak Warrior—By 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.
Tuscan Getaway—(Stroll - 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. Pass.
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.
Track bias: Tampa Bay has a more forgiving bias than Gulfstream. 54% win either on the lead or pressing the pace and colts in posts 8+ are at a disadvantage. Favorites are in the money 74% of the time, but win only 34% of graded stakes. 58% of the winners go to the post at 5-1 or less.
Laurie: Ashley, I see six contenders that can finish in the money. This is by no means a match race. Surfing U S A, Conquest Titan and Vinceremos appear to have the best shot to win, while East Hall, Hy Kodiak Warrior and Matador have the potential to mess up the exotic tickets.  I’ll go with a Pletcher exacta with Surfing U S A over Vinceremos with Conquest Titan storming from the back for third.  I’ll toss Hy Kodiak Warrior in for a close up super.
Ashley: There’s a reason why Edgar Prado is a Hall of Fame jockey, and I have full confidence that he will give Vinceremos another smart, well-timed ride. I like that Vinceremos is familiar with this track and owns a win over it as Tampa Bay Downs can be tricky. Heck, I just plain like Vinceremos. Like Laurie, I believe Conquest Titan will be running strongly late, as will East Hall. I’m going to take a chance with Tuscan Getaway for a long shot selection. 


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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby 2014: Handicapping the Tampa Bay Derby...

worst trip ever for East Hall, slammed twice on back side, minor injury, took away his chances, down, but not out!!
Horrible trip for Conquest Titan. But hats off to Graham Motion and Ring Weekend!
What was that Ashley said about Ring Weekend, pass was it. That is why i love Graham Motion
have to catch the pacesetter
conquest titan and east hall for the Win @ Tampa
Conquest Titan and Vinceremos
Go Conquest Titan! Flying late surging to the wire!
Conquest Titan is my choice.
Early headline ... Conquest Titan rolls by late for the win!

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Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, and it was her love of reading and horses that led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few short years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and get to personally meet and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.


Before joining Horse Racing Nation, Ashley created her own blog Wired with Ashley Paige. The idea to venture into the world of blogging came to her when she realized that she had much to say about horse racing and no one to say it to at the time. Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation blogging as The Florida Filly. Using that moniker, she mainly covered racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues, and from time to time offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry as a whole. A move north to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the new From Coast to Coast blog for HRN, which is simply a revamped version of The Florida Filly. Don't let the new look and name change fool you, though. Ashley still brings to the table the same great coverage as From Coast to Coast as she did for The Florida Filly. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.


An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband Chris and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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