The Road to the Kentucky Derby heads south on Saturday to Tampa Bay Downs, which hosts the $400,000 dollar, Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby.
This 1 1/16-mile race offers a total of 85 Derby qualifying points, with 50 going to the Winner, 25 to 2nd, 10 to 3rd, and 5 to 4th.
The Tampa Bay Derby was first held in 1981. It was a Grade 3 event from 1984 to 1989, and returned to Grade 3 status in 2002. In 2011, it was upgraded to Grade 2. It has always been contested at 1 1/16 miles.
Here’s a look at a few notable Winners of the Tampa Bay Derby.
STREET SENSE (2007) He entered the 2007 Derby trail with history against him. The previous November, he Won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by 10 lengths with a dramatic move on the rail. At the time, no horse had Won both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby. As such, many observers were skeptical that STREET SENSE could Win the Derby, despite the fact that his impressive BC Juvenile Win came at Churchill Downs.
STREET SENSE made his three-year-old debut in the Tampa Bay Derby. Six horses lined up that day with ANY GIVEN SATURDAY going off as the 3-5 favorite, while STREET SENSE was the second choice at 6-5. The other four starters were 20-1 or higher.
Entering the stretch, STREET SENSE came up the rail and looked ready to run away, but ANY GIVEN SATURDAY fought back on the outside and would not relinquish control easily. The two dueled down the stretch in an epic stretch battle, but STREET SENSE ultimately prevailed by a nose. His time of 1:43.11 for 1 1/16 miles established a new track record.
Despite a 2nd-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes next out, and the so-called Juvenile Jinx hanging over him, STREET SENSE was slight 9-2 favorite in the Derby. He came from 19 ½ lengths back to Win by 2 ½ lengths, saving every bit of ground until jockey Calvin Borel wheeled him out at the top of the stretch to glide past HARD SPUN. STREET SENSE had thus became the first horse to complete the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile–Kentucky Derby combo.
TAPWRIT (2017) With a Stakes Win and a Stakes 2nd-placing under his belt, TAPWRIT had the look of a 3-year-old improving at the right time entering the 2017 Tampa Bay Derby. The gray Todd Pletcher trainee Won the Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park on December 10th, 2016, and followed that performance with a 2nd in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Based on those races, TAPWRIT was the 6-5 favorite in the 10-horse Tampa Bay Derby.
Breaking from Post Position five, he briefly raced wide but then made his way to the inside and rated towards the back of the pack. As the field rounded the far turn, jockey Jose Ortiz asked his mount for run between horses, and the colt responded with authority. He engulfed early leader STATE OF HONOR and sprinted clear in the stretch to Win by 4 ½ lengths.
He disappointed in his next two starts, including a 6th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with a rough trip. But TAPWRIT bounced back in a big way in the Belmont Stakes. He chased down pacesetter IRISH WAR CRY and prevailed by two lengths, becoming the second Tampa Bay Derby Victor to Win a Triple Crown race.
TACITUS (2019) The 2019 Tampa Bay Derby was the Stakes debut for TACITUS. The gray son of TAPIT broke his Maiden at Aqueduct the previous November, and was off for several months after that race. In the Tampa Bay Derby, he went off as the 9-1 in a field that included future Belmont Stakes Winner SIR WINSTON and eventual Grade 1 Winner WIN WIN WIN.
TACITUS rated several paths off the rail in mid-pack early on while the leaders set fast early fractions. That setup proved ripe for the Bill Mott trainee, as he churned on in the stretch and pulled clear in the last sixteenth to Win by 1 ½ lengths.
In his next out TACITUS Won the Wood Memorial Stakes, and then finished 3rd, (elevated from 4th thanks to the DQ of MAXIMUM SECURITY), in the Kentucky Derby. He added on several more 2nd-place finishes in Graded Stakes company in the remainder of his 3-year-old season, including runner-up efforts in the Belmont Stakes, the Jim Dandy, and Travers Stakes.
On Friday the Daily Racing Blog will take a look at the field for this year’s Tampa Bay Derby. So stop back and see who we like.