Candy Man Rocket leads field of 12 in Tampa Bay Derby

Candy Man Rocket leads field of 12 in Tampa Bay Derby
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Sam F. Davis (G3) winner Candy Man Rocket and third-place finisher Hidden Stash headline a field of 12 set to go postward in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. A total of 85 qualifying points towards the 2021 Kentucky Derby will be on the line in the 1 1/16-miles prep with 50 going to the winner.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Candy Man Rocket will break from post No. 3 under Junior Alvarado, who was aboard the son of Candy Ride for the first time when guiding him to a first stakes score in the Sam F. Davis. It was Candy Man Rocket's first time going two turns after previously breaking his maiden by 9 1/4-lengths going six furlongs at Gulfstream Park in his second start on Jan. 9. 

Hidden Stash was coming off a 2 1/2-month layoff when rallying to be third, beaten 1 1/4-lengths in the Sam F. Davis. Previously, the son of Constitution won an entry-level allowance going two turns at Churchill Downs in November. He will break from post No. 8 for trainer Victoria Oliver under Rafael Bejarano, who returns to the saddle after being aboard for Hidden Stash's maiden and allowance win. 

Trainer Todd Pletcher entered a pair of maiden winners in Promise Keeper and Unbridled Honor. Promise Keeper was no match for Candy Man Rocket on debut when going six furlongs at Gulfstream Park in early January, but came back to romp by five lengths in gate-to-wire fashion when stretched to a mile at Gulfstream on Feb. 6. The effort earned a 94 Brisnet Speed Rating, which is the best last-out figure in the field. Regular rider Luis Saez again has the mount. 

Unbridled Honor, a son of Honor Code, rallied to earn his diploma going one mile and 40 yards at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 6. He has come back to fire a pair of bullets at Palm Beach Downs in preparation for his stakes debut. 

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. entered a trio of colts: Awesome Gerry, Moonlight Strike and Super Strong, whose only previous start came at Camarero Race Track in Puerto Rico. 

Awesome Gerry will look to rebound from a seventh-place finish in the Jan. 30 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream. Previously, he was fourth in the Nyquist at Keeneland on the Breeders' Cup undercard, second in the Jean Laffite at Delta Downs and third in the Mucho Macho Man. Diaz Jr. will be aboard for the first time.

Moonlight Strike followed a maiden win at Gulfstream Park West in November with a first-level score at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 10. The son of Liam's Ma returned in the Jan. 22 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park and finished fourth, beaten 17 lengths by Caddo River. 

Super Strong, a Kentucky-bred son of Super Saver, won a Group 1 in Puerto Rico in his only previous start. He will be fitted in blinkers and will have Antonio Gallardo in the irons. 

Also exiting the Holy Bull is Sittin on Go, who finished a distant sixth after stumbling at the start for trainer Dale Romans. It was the first start following a winter break for last year's Iroquois (G3) winner, who closed out the season with a ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and sixth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). 

One other entrant of note is Helium for Hall of Famer Mark Casse. The son of Ironicus was perfect in two starts last year over the Polytrack at Woodbine. Helium earned his diploma by 3 1/4-lengths going seven furlongs on Sept. 27 and came back three weeks later to win the seven-furlong Display Stakes by 4 1/4-lengths. He will break from post No. 10 under Jose Ferrer. 

2021 Tampa Bay Derby (G2)

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