Saturday’s $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) is Tampa Bay Downs signature prep race for this years Kentucky Derby. It brings together a competitive field of 3-year-olds vying for a total of 85 qualifying points for the May 1st Run For The Roses. With 50 of those points going to the Winner.
The race has attracted a 12 horse field, and is the final contest on a card of 11. It has a scheduled Post Time of 5:35.
Here is a look at the scheduled starters.
1. MY LIBERTY [ML 30-1] Jockey: Tomas Mejia. Trainer: Maria Mejia. A big jump in class here for this colt. Comes into the TBD off of a Win in a seven furlong Maiden race at this track on February 12th. In that Victory he gamely dueled for the lead throughout with the eventual runner-up, and earned a decent 87 Speed Figure. That said, he’ll be facing a far tougher group Saturday, including several other horses that prefer to race on or near the lead. No matter how the race plays out, he is a deserved longshot here and will be hard pressed to hit the board.
2. SUPER STRONG [ML 8-1] Jockey: Antonio Gallardo. Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. This son of 2010 Kentucky Derby Winner and Tampa Bay Derby 3rd-place finisher SUPER SAVER is an absolute wild card in Saturday’s race. He ships to the states from Puerto Rico, where he Won his only start on December 19th. Another major jump up in class for this one, as Saffie Joseph Jr. takes over training duties from Puerto Rico-based Raymond Morales. He is worth a look Saturday as a Trifecta and/or Superfecta filler at good odds.
3. CANDY MAN ROCKET [ML 2-1] Jockey: Junior Alvarado. Trainer: Bill Mott. Will most likely be the Post-Time favorite based on his one-length Win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at this track on February 6th. If he can take the next step Saturday and bump his Speed Figure up about 10 points, he stands a good chance to be first across the wire at Tampa Bay Downs again. On paper, this race sets up well for his stalking style and he’s already shown an affinity for the track. Mott Won the 2019 TBD with TACITUS.
4. KING OF DREAMS [ML 20-1] Jockey: Samy Camacho. Trainer: Juan Carlos Avila. He ships in from Gulfstream Park off of a sharp Win in a 1 1/16-mile turf Maiden race on January 30th that generated a 96 Speed Figure. He’s been working steadily on dirt at Gulfstream since breaking his Maiden. Although he’ll have plenty of company in the early going, look for Camacho to be aggressive and put KING OF DREAMS on the early lead from the fourth Post Position.
5. BOCA BOY [ML 15-1] Jockey: Angel Arroyo. Trainer: Cheryl Winebaugh. This gelding set the pace in the Sam F. Davis Stakes but gave up the lead on the far turn and finished 4th behind CANDY MAN ROCKET, defeated by four lengths. Prior to that he Won twice at Gulfstream Park along with a 2nd and 3rd place finish. Those races occurring last summer and fall during his 2-year-old season. He is 2-for-3 on sloppy tracks, which could aid him Saturday as the forecast calls for a 80% chance of showers in Tampa. Overall, BOCA BOY is a longshot Win candidate in the Tampa Bay Derby.
6. AWESOME GERRY [ML 15-1] Jockey: Hector Diaz Jr. Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. Finished 7th in the Holy Bull Stakes on January 30th, 17 lengths in back of GREATEST HONOUR. He started out his career with two consecutive Wins last summer and fall and then ran decent in three Stakes races to close out his 2-year-old season, finishing 2nd in the seven-furlong Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs and 3rd in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Both his Wins came at sprint distances and his pedigree also suggests that a mile might be the longest he should compete.
7. MOONLITE STRIKE [ML 20-1] Jockey: Daniel Centeno. Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. Last out finished 4th in the Smarty Jones Stakes, January 22nd at Oaklawn Park. But, none of the horses in the Smarty Jones was ever a threat to runaway Winner CADDO RIVER, so it’s reasonable to expect MOONLITE STRIKE to rebound and put in a better effort here, especially since he’s been posting swift workouts at Palm Meadows Training Center. Overall, he seems a second-tier contender in the Tampa Bay Derby and he’d need to improve substantially against this competitive field to have a chance at the upset.
8. HIDDEN STASH [ML 4-1] Jockey: Rafael Bejarano. Trainer: Victoria Oliver. Looks to improve in his second 3-year-old start Saturday after closing late to grab 3rd in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. He had a solid juvenile campaign in 2020 on the Kentucky circuit, Winning his last two starts at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, both in 1 1/16-mile races. His Speed Figures have maxed out over his last three starts in the high 80s, so he’ll need to boost those in the TBD to have any shot at Winning. He fits in well with this field and figures to put in a good effort, and he could carry attractive odds as a Win candidate at Post Time. There’s enough speed lined up here to benefit his off-the-pace running style.
9. UNBRIDLED HONOR [ML 20-1] Jockey: Julien Leparoux. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. He has a Win over the ambivalent main track here, having scored by a half-length in a one mile and 40-yard Maiden race on February 6th. His stalking running style will serve him well in a race with several front-running types. He upped his Speed Figure by 15 points in his Win here a month ago. Pletcher holds the record for Wins in the Tampa Bay Derby with five. The most recent being TAPWRIT in 2017.
10. HELIUM [ML 6-1] Jockey: Jose Ferrer. Trainer: Mark Casse. He is making his 3-year-old debut in the Tampa Bay Derby. He hasn’t raced since October 18th, when he romped by 4 ¼ lengths in the Display Stakes on the synthetic surface at Woodbine. It’s anyone’s guess how he will handle the challenges of making a surface switch, coming off a four-plus month layoff, AND taking a class and distance hike. He did demonstrate some ability in his juvenile season, and connections make him worthy of consideration in exotic bets, at the least, and an intriguing Win candidate at what should be solid odds.
11. PROMISE KEEPER [ML 8-1] Jockey; Luis Saez. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. This lightly raced colt is one of the main challengers to CANDY MAN ROCKET as he goes at him again after losing to him two races back at Gulfstream Park. In his second career start, PROMISE KEEPER ran impressively at Gulfstream, setting the pace and romping by five lengths in a one-turn mile race on a sloppy track. The forecast for rain on Saturday is a plus for him.
12. SITTIN ON GO [ML 20-1] Jockey: Roberto Alvarado Jr. Trainer: Dale Romans. Back in September, he Won the first qualifying points race for Derby 147, when he came out on top of the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. However, after that upset Victory he has finished 9th, 6th, and 6th in major Derby prep races, defeated by a total of 34 ¼ lengths. He has much to prove here after showing so much early promise. He came from behind to Win the Iroquois and there seems to be enough pace lined up Saturday to set up his closing rally, but based on his form over the past several months a minor award appears to be his limit.
Summary: Todd Pletcher has Won four of the last eight editions of the Tampa Bay Derby. The favorite doesn’t fare well in this race; only three have Won in the last decade, although they did complete the Exacta or Trifecta in the last three years.
There are several runners in this field that do their best work on the lead. This will set up for someone sitting right off the pace to mid-pack. That makes the top choice here HIDDEN STASH. There is rain in the forecast, but his talent should shine through.
The Play: We will use #8 HIDDEN STASH on top of a Trifecta Key using the #2-3-5-10-11 underneath, as well as a 3-8-11 Exacta Box.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.