Tampa Bay pattern is hard to read in Kentucky Derby context

Tampa Bay pattern is hard to read in Kentucky Derby context
Photo: Douglas DeFelice/Eclipse Sportswire

Editor’s and author’s note: I goofed badly, putting Street Sense in Todd Pletcher’s barn when he was in Carl Nafzger’s. What’s worse is I covered both the 2007 and 2010 runnings of the Kentucky Derby that were noted. No excuse. Apologies for the mistake. A corrected version of this story follows.

Mention the names Street Sense and Super Saver, and memorable victories in the Kentucky Derby come to mind.

Something else they had in common was the Tampa Bay Derby, which both horses also won before they wore the roses. 

Todd Pletcher, who trained Super Saver, will try that path again Saturday, this time with Major General coming off the bench for the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 2, $400,000 race that is worth 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers.

In 41 runnings since 1981, only Street Sense in 2007 and Super Saver in 2010 have used the Florida race as a way station for success in the Kentucky Derby. Of the 41 Tampa Bay Derby horses who advanced, eight finished in the money at Churchill Downs, most recently in 2019 when Tacitus was promoted from fourth to third.

Following are the horses who started in both derbies since 2000. They include their Quirin Speed Points going into Kentucky.

YearHorseQuirinT.B.Ky. D.
2021HeliumE/P 61st  8th
 Hidden Stash  P 02nd14th
2020Sole Volante  S 02nd11th
2019Tacitus  P 21st  3rd
Win Win Win  S 33rd  9th
2018Vino Rosso  S 44th  9th
 FlameawayE/P 62nd13th
2017Tapwrit  P 21st  6th
 State of Honor  E 72nd19th
2016DestinE/P 41st  6th
 Brody's Cause  S 07th  7th
 Outwork  E 82nd14th
2015Danzig Moon  S 24th  5th
 Carpe DiemE/P 51st10th
2014VinceremosE/P 52nd17th
2013Falling Sky  E 83rd19th
2012Prospective  P 11st18th
2011Watch Me GoE/P 31st18th
2010Super Saver  E 63rd  1st
2009Musket Man  P 41st  3rd
 Join in the Dance  E 82nd  7th
 General QuartersE/P 45th10th
 Nowhere to Hide  P 34th17th
2008Big Truck  P 31st18th
2007Street Sense  S 21st  1st
 Any Given SaturdayE/P 52nd  8th
2006Bluegrass CatE/P 62nd 2nd
Deputy GlittersE/P 51st  8th
Storm Treasure  S 16th11th
2005Sun KingE/P 41st15th
2004LimehouseE/P 51st  4th
2003    
2002    
2001    
2000Impeachment  S 02nd  3rd
 Wheelaway  P 31st  5th
 E - Early (pacesetter)   
 E/P - Early presser (stalker)   
 P - Presser (mid-pack)   
 S - Sustainer (closer)  

Even though the Kentucky Derby has been a speed-favoring race since the qualifying-points era began nine years ago, six of the last eight Tampa Bay Derby graduates displayed an off-the-pace style that was symbolized by their “P” (presser) and “S” (sustainer) designations in their Quirins.

There has been no particular style common to recent winners of the Florida prep. Helium was a deep-closing victor last year as was Tacitus in 2019 and Tapwrit in 2017. But King Guillermo in 2020 and Quip in 2018 were never more than a length off the lead at any call.

YearWinner1/41/23/4StrFin
2021Helium10 - 6 3/45 -   32 - 111
2020King Guillermo  2 - 12 -      1/22 -    1/211
2019Tacitus  6 - 86 - 10 1/27 - 83 - 21
2018Quip  2 -    1/22 -      1/22 -    1/22 - hd1
2017Tapwrit  8 - 67 -   54 - 3 1/211
2016Destin  3 - 22 -      1/23 - 1 1/211
2015Carpe Diem  4 - 1 3/43 -   22 -    1/211
2014Ring Weekend  11111
2013Verrazano  2 - 11111
2012Prospective  6 - 7 1/24 -   4111
2011Watch Me Go  5 - 34 -   2 1/23 - 12 - hd1
2010Odysseus  2 - 22 -      1/23 -    1/24 - 11
2009Musket Man  4 - 2 1/25 -   1 1/28 - 33 - 31
2008Big Truck  5 - 1 3/45 -   26 - 1 1/42 - 1 1/21
2007Street Sense  4 - 6 1/24 -   74 - 4 1/211
2006Deputy Glitters  2 - 12 -      1/22 -    1/211
2005Sun King  11111
2004Limehouse  2 - 1 1/24 -   1 1/25 - 1 1/23 - 1 1/21
2003Region of Merit  3 - 33 -   3 1/22 - 22 - 11
2002Equality  2 - 1 1/22 -   2111
2001Burning Roma  5 - 3 1/24 -   1 1/2111
2000Wheelaway  4 - 53 -   2 1/23 - 111
 All 1/16 miles.    

Major General has shown both styles in his two victories, leading from gate to wire in his debut last summer at Saratoga before he came from 4 1/2 lengths behind to win the Iroquois (G3) in his last start Sept. 18 at Churchill Downs.

If Major General were to win Saturday, it would be Pletcher’s sixth in the Tampa Bay Derby. He already holds the stakes record for training victories thanks to Limehouse in 2004, Verrazano in 2013, Carpe Diem in 2015, Destin in 2016 and Tapwrit in 2017.

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