The Tampa Bay Derby (G2) is Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. The mile & 1/16th contest has long run in the shadow of richer Kentucky Derby prep races at nearby Gulfstream Park.
But despite facing fierce competition to attract the best 3-year-olds in Florida, the Tampa Bay Derby has more than held its own as a productive prep for the first Saturday in May.
First held in 1981, the Tampa Bay Derby got credibility quickly when 1982 Winner REINVESTED went on to finish 3rd in the Kentucky Derby.
The race really took hold around the turn of the century.
Tampa Bay Derby runners-up MENIFEE (1999) and IMPEACHMENT (2000) went on to hit the board in the Kentucky Derby, prompting the TBD to receive Grade 3 status in 2002.
This upgrade, coupled with steady purse increases, compelled better horses to target the Tampa Bay Derby.
The 2006 runner-up BLUEGRASS CAT gave the race more visibility when finishing 2nd in the Kentucky Derby, and then STREET SENSE went one better in 2007, after a narrow defeat at Tampa Bay Downs he went on to a runaway victory in the Run For The Roses.
Todd Pletcher has been the most successful trainer of Tampa Bay Derby Champions, Winning with LIMEHOUSE in 2004 before saddling four Winners during a five-year span from 2013 to 2017.
Another Pletcher horse- SUPER SAVER was 3rd in the 2010 TBD before going on to claim Victory in the Kentucky Derby.
The Tampa Bay Derby continued to grow during the 2010s, reaching Grade 2 status in 2011 while riding the wave generated by STREET SENSE and SUPER SAVER.
The purse reached $400,000 in 2018- one year after Pletcher’s TAPWRIT used his Tampa Bay Derby Victory as a springboard to success in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
In 2019, TACITUS Won the Tampa Bay Derby in the stakes-record time of 1:41.90, the start of a productive season that saw him finish 2nd in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.
The Tampa Bay Derby offers 85 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top four finishers, divided on a 50-20-10-5 basis.
On Friday the Daily Racing Blog will take a look at the field for this years TBD, so be sure to stop back and see who we like.