Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tampa Bay Derby in National Spotlight

The Tampa Bay Derby caught the national attention in 2007 when Street Sense, the previous year’s Two Year Old Champ, used the race as a springboard to a victory in the Kentucky Derby. Just three years later, Super Saver finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby before taking home the roses in May.

This year’s Tampa Bay Derby is the focus of twelve colts seeking earnings to get them to Kentucky on May 5.

battlehardenedThe winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes has finished in the top three in the Tampa Bay Derby since 2006. This year, BATTLE HARDENED (Giant's Causeway - Jen's Fashion, by Northern Fashion) entered the Sam F. Davis a maiden and exited the race a stakes winner. This colt has a classic pedigree. His half-brother Colonial Colony won the Stephen Foster (G-1) and his dam Jen’s Fashion was a juvenile stakes winner. Battle Hardened has shown versatility to come from off of the pace or run on the lead. He’s shown Brisnet speed figure improvement in every race.

ProspectivePhotoMichaelBurnsPROSPECTIVE (Malibu Moon - Spirited Away, by Awesome Again) finished 1 ¼ lengths behind Battle Hardened in the Sam F. Davis. The Mark Casse trainee ran farther than the rest, stuck five wide on the first turn and six wide on the second. Despite this, Prospective closed strongly for second place. Prospective has a stamina oriented pedigree, perfect for the Classic distances. His sire Malibu Moon, a son of A.P. Indy, is represented by seven stakes winners at 1 ¼ miles. Prospective’s dam Spirited Away won the Truly Bound Handicap at 1 1/16 miles over a sloppy track. Prospective is her first foal. There isn’t much black type in the second distaff generation; however, Prospective’s third dam North Sider was Champion Older Mare of 1982.

RAVELO'S BOY (Lawyer Ron - Dance Tune, by French Deputy) has won twice in 11 attempts and he’s a stalker with no early speed. Like Prospective, Ravelo’s Boy was six wide around the final turn in the Sam F. Davis, but gained steadily for fourth place, beaten only 1 ¼ lengths and two noses away from second place. Trained by Manny Azpurna, the Chestnut colt had a three furlong bullet lung opener, so he may be a little closer to the pace.

TakeChargeIndyStakes-placed TAKE CHARGE INDY (A.P. Indy - Take Charge Lady, by Dehere) was inhaled by Risen Star hero El Padrino in their three year old debut and finished second beaten two lengths. Take Charge Indy’s dam Take Charge Lady is a multiple Grade 1 veteran who won the Spinster (twice), Ashland, Arlington Matron, and placed in the Kentucky Oaks. She won or placed in 18 of 22 starts, earning over two million dollars. Take Charge Indy breezed a last work bullet and should be close to the pace in the Tampa Bay Derby.

CAJUNCHARLIECAJUN CHARLIE (Afternoon Deelites - Cigar Charlie, by Tour d'Or) was a big fish in a small pond at Delta Downs. Now he takes on a stronger class of runners. Cajun Charlie has defeated his rivals by a combined 13 lengths in his last three starts, including two state-bred stakes. He’s a half-brother to a stakes winner and stakes placed runner and his dam was also a stakes winner. He has a hardy blue-collar pedigree and he may try to wire the field.

springhillfarmUndefeated SPRING HILL FARM (Smart Strike - Colonial Ministrel, by Pleasant Colony) won both of his starts for fun and is ready to step it up. The well-bred colt is a half-brother to two stakes winning sprinters, and despite all of the stamina in his distaff line, his multiple graded stakes winning dam never won past a mile. Spring Hill Farm traces his distaff line back to the blue hen and Champion mare Gallorette and the Champion Saint Liam is part of this family. The Todd Pletcher colt popped a five furlong bullet breeze for the Tampa Derby and may once again play come and catch me on the lead.

The lightly raced CHIEF ENERGY (Ghostzapper - Blissful Kiss, by Kissin Kris) has picked a tough spot for his three year old debut. He showed nothing in his final race, a foray onto the turf. Chief Energy has a late-maturing, distance oriented pedigree. Although there isn’t a tremendous amount of black-type in his pedigree, Chief Energy’s dam and second dam were both multiple stakes winners. Making his first start for James Toner, Chief Energy has been working well at Palm Meadows.

CozzettiThe pretty gray COZZETTI (Cozzene - Lemon Drop Cello, by Lemon Drop Kid) flashed promise in a maiden win over a sloppy Churchill surface, but still hasn’t figured out what he wants to be when he grows up. After off the board finishes over turf and Polytrack, Cozetti gets back on the dirt. With the bloodlines of Champion turfers Cozzene, Kingmambo and Caerleon, Cozzetti seemed perfect for the turf, but he may have a personal preference of dirt. His distaff line shows an affinity for the off track, as Cozzetti’s dam is a half-sister to two stakes winners who won in the mud. Showers are expected Saturday in Tampa.

The locally based TELL ALL YOU KNOW (Van Nistelrooy - Withdrawn, by Phone Trick) is undefeated in two starts at Tampa and dips a hoof into graded stakes company. He’s a half-brother to the speedy multiple stakes winning sprinter Don’ttalktome. There are some minor stakes winners scattered throughout his pedigree and Tell All You Know has a miler’s pedigree. The Chad Stewart barn is 0 for 9 in graded stakes.

GOLDEN TICKET (Speightstown - Business Plan, by Deputy Minister) took his time winning his maiden, but got the job done when he stretched out to two turns in his last start. His dam is a half-sister to a stakes winning turf miler and his second dam, Good Mood, won the G-3 Miss Grillo. Trainer Kenny McPeek has a 20% win rate with maidens jumping into stakes company.

TWIN (Omega Code - Cuchu, by Storm Creek) recently broke through with a victory over state-bred maidens in his twelfth start. He’s shown ability at the state-bred level, placing in a couple of stakes races at Calder, but this is a tough jump for him. The Maestre barn is 0 for 5 with shippers.

FOX RULES (Roman Ruler - Shesastonecoldfox, by Foxhound) folded like a K-Mart lawn chair after pressing the pace in the Sam F. Davis. He’s hit the board once in six lifetime starts. His dam was a good New York bred sprinter, but Fox Rules appears up against it here.


Track bias: The track is playing fair, unless you are a come from the clouds stalker. They’re winning at 11%. There’s a 40% chance of rain on Saturday.

SPRING HILL FARM is the likely favorite. Hey, it’s Pletcher. BATTLE HARDENED, PROSPECTIVE and RAVELO'S BOY will come running at the end. TAKE CHARGE INDY should be sharper in his second start off of a layoff. Keep an eye on COZZETTI if the track is sloppy.




#1 PROSPECTIVE – longshot



(by guest blogger Paul Mazur)


The Grade Two, $300K San Felipe Stakes is Southern California’s final feeder race to the G1 Santa Anita Derby in early April. Although it’s been a dozen years since a San Felipe winner won the Kentucky Derby (Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000), the race has been a productive one. Recent Winners like Point Given, Medaglia d’ Oro, and Sidney’s Candy have gone to stakes success later in their careers. Past winners of fame include Bertrando, Sunday Silence, and Affirmed.

Let’s meet the field. (At publish time, morning line odds were not available.)

Santa Anita -- Race 9 -- 1 1/16 miles on dirt -- post time 4:38 PT

1. BLINGO (Artie Schiller -- Wassita, by Sure Blade). He was put on the shelf after being sixth, beaten less than three lengths in the Cash Call Futurity and a win at first asking on Hollywood Park turf. He enters off five six furlong works over at Hollywood Park. The J. Sherrifs/M. Smith jockey trainer team of Zenyatta are behind this gelding. The closing style is an okay fit and there will be enough pace to deal with. However, this will be the first start on natural dirt and the pedigree leans a lot more to turf and synthetics. Could see him passing some tired runners and sneaking into the bottom half of the superfecta.

2. BODEMEISTER (Empire Maker -- Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat). When he won his maiden special weight race on February 11th by nine and one-quarter lengths going a solid mile in 1:34 2/5, the public oohed and aahed. With Bob Baffert at the training helm, you knew he’d be thrust into Graded Stakes company. Well, almost thirty days off the win he arrives in this G2. Bejerano takes the call. The works have been a bit slow for a trainer that often is quick with works. Moreover, he got a free lunch on the front end that day and that isn’t likely to happen again. I think he’s worth taking a stand against.

3. AMERICAN ACT (Quiet American -- Revolutionary Act, by Boston Harbor). I liked this Carava runner in the G2 San Vicente and he was the recipient of a bone-headed ride by Martin Pedroza. There, Pedroza throttled him back a little too much and got nailed on the line by Drill. He’s back here, going two turns for the first time. He’s in a tough spot: send early and risk dueling with BODEMEISTER or take back and hope he can rate, however he did demonstrate that minimally three back at Hollywood. Worse, he’s going two turns for the first time. Neither pace situation seems like a good proposition, but I’ll use him in the trifecta off the learning experience last out.

4. MIDNIGHT TRANSFER (Hard Spun -- French Stain, by French Deputy) Another runner going two turns for the first time. Winner of the listed San Pedro Stakes last time, he sat behind a fast pace and closed well. Solid trainer statistics across the board. He’s another that you have to wonder if he can handle two turns, but the pedigree and the trainer stats make this one a hard toss.

5. GROOVIN’ SOLO (Bob and John -- Squall Linda, by Summer Squall) Two starts back he got his diploma going two turns at Santa Anita. From there, he was thrown into the deep end in the G2 Lewis Stakes. He was third, placed seventh via disqualifcation for interference. He comes in off two five furlong bullet works at Santa Anita, and first call rider A. Quinonez has the riding duties. He’s certainly proven better at three than at two, the works are encouraging, but he certainly flunked the graded stakes acid test last time. Maybe a better fit for an allowance race.

6. LIAISON (Indian Charlie -- Galloping Gal, by Victory Gallop). His effort in the Lewis Stakes five weeks ago was a dud, as he lost the rider. So he’ll be going second off the layoff, and has the services of Bob Baffert and his first call rider, Martin Garcia. Before the winter vacation, he won the listed Real Quiet and G1 Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park. Blinkers come off for today’s test. The pace up front should be quick enough to suit him, and this distance is in his pedigree range. Think he gets the winning trip.

7. CREATIVE CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway -- Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer). He made his first start off the winter layoff last time in the G2 San Vicente going seven furlongs. It was a distance too short and according to on-track reports he was not at top fitness. Perhaps he’ll be more fit today. On the other hand, he’s got enough earnings to make the Kentucky Derby right now so the connections don’t have to ratchet all the way for this test. While he’s capable on his best day, the connections want to the best in May and not the best in March. Underneath.

8. ROUSING SERMON (Lucky Pulpit -- Rousing Again, by Awesome Again) Second in both his winter two-year-old stakes to LIAISON at Hollywood, he made his first start off the shelf last time in the Lewis Stakes, finishing fourth but placed third. He had trouble in the Lewis, and he did have a good closing kick back at Hollywood. Worth noting that as a two year old he also won a statebred stakes, the Cal Cup Juvenile going two turns at Santa Anita. If the pace gets wicked on the front end he has a puncher’s chance. But I don’t think he improved from age two to age three and I won’t be using him.

9. TIZ POINT (Tiznow -- Windmill Point, by Storm Bird) Garrett Gomez returns to stakes company here after suffering a broken heel. He takes the call on a front-runner that will be on the front end with BODEMEISTER and possibly AWESOME ACT. Broke his maiden upstate at Golden Gate, then collected two checks in allowance company and went backwards three back in the Real Quiet. Worth noting he won an N1X allowance last out. I think he goes up front with BODEMEISTER, forces the pace, and goes backward through the stretch. Toss.

10. EMPIRE WAY (Empire Maker -- Delta Princess, by A. P. Indy) The second of two horses trained by Mike Harrington, CREATIVE CAUSE being the other one. He was second in the Lewis when closing off a moderate pace, but that was only his second money finish after winning at first asking last fall across town at Hollywood. Rider downgrade from Rosario to Blanc. He may have a sterling pedigree, but I think he got a more advantageous pace set up last time. Not the worst horse to use, but not the best either.





Longshot: The Cho/Quinonez trainer/jockey team behind last year’s San Felipe winner Premier Pegasus are represented with GROOVIN SOLO. This is a team that has sent out quite a few long-priced horses when working together on the Southern California circuit. May be more focused with the blinkers off after getting disqualified in the Lewis. Most importantly, he’s shown his best form after turning three and when placed on the dirt. The pedigree is full of capable routers.


Paul Mazur is the author of the horse racing blog, “Picks and Ponderings on Chicago Horse Racing”. He has also written for WirePlayers, Graded Stakes, and Thorofan. He lives, writes, and wagers in Chicago.