HELIUM had not started for 4½ months leading into Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby, and had never raced on any surface but the synthetic of Woodbine.
But the Mark Casse-trained colt had better get used to running on dirt, as he effectively clinched a spot in the starting gate of this years Run For The Roses.
HELIUM made a strong move in the far turn of Tampa Bay Downs’ premier event, then dug in gamely under jockey Jose Ferrer to hold off late runner HIDDEN STASH by ¾ of a length.
With the Tampa Bay Derby Victory, HELIUM earned 50 points toward entry into the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Fifty points has been enough to make the Derby field each May since Churchill Downs instituted the points system in 2013.
Making both his Graded-Stakes and dirt debut, he broke from Post No. 10 on Saturday in the 12-horse Tampa Bay Derby, going off as a 15-1 shot.
“Mark Casse gave me a great opportunity to go out there and do my job and do my thing,” Ferrer said. “On the backside, I had all kind of horse under me, and I could see who had more horse and when I set him down at the 3/8 pole, I could see I had a chance. I just had so much horse and he flew down the lane.”
Casse is taking aim aiming for his first Kentucky Derby Triumph. The Hall of Fame trainer Won the other two legs of the Triple Crown in 2019- with WAR OF WILL in the Preakness Stakes and SIR WINSTON in the Belmont Stakes.
HELIUM returned $32.80 for a $2 dollar Win bet and covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.55.
This weekends Kentucky Derby Prep Race is the Grade 2, Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, with 85 Derby qualifying points (50-20-10-5) up for grabs once again.