Who Wins The Tampa Bay Derby?

Saturday’s $400,000, Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs is an important prep for qualifying points prep for the 2022 Kentucky Derby. The 1 1/16-mile race on the dirt track offers 85 total points to help gain a spot in the starting gate on May 7 at Churchill Downs, distributed to the top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 basis.

The contest is listed as race 11 on a card of 12, with a scheduled Post Time of 5:25.

Here is look at the field for Saturday’s contest.

1. GRANTHAM [ML 20-1] Jockey: Samy Camacho. Trainer: Mike Maker. Raced competitively in his first two starts in Kentucky, checking in 2nd in a seven-furlong maiden race last November at Churchill Downs and then Winning a 1 1/16-mile race by 1 ½ lengths on the synthetic at Turfway Park in mid-December. He then shipped to New York for his Stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes on February 5th, where he ran 4th of 11. GRANTHAM will be shortening up from 1 1/8 miles to a mile and a sixteenth in the Tampa Bay Derby, and based on his Withers finish it’s easy to see why his connections are giving him another try in a Derby prep, although he may get another off track Saturday.

2. TRADEMARK [ML 30-1] Jockey: Daniel Centeno. Trainer: Vicki Oliver. He gives the quirky main track here another try after finishing last of 12 in the Sam F. Davis, defeated 33 lengths. He was a 27-1 longshot in that February 12th race and figures to be about double that come Post Time Saturday. His juvenile form racing at 1 1/16 miles indicates he might good enough to spice up Trifecta and Superfecta tickets if he can bounce back. TRADEMARK Won both a Maiden race and an Allowance race at that distance last fall at Churchill Downs, scoring by a combined eight lengths. If he can can shake off the lackluster Sam F. Davis performance, he could hang around long enough to secure some Derby points – five or 10 of them at most.

3. HAPPY BOY ROCKET [ML 12-1] Jockey: Junior Alvarado. Trainer: Bill Mott. The Hall of Fame trainer seeks his 3rd Win in the Tampa Bay Derby with this Gulfstream shipper. HAPPY BOY ROCKET is an upset candidate based on his Maiden Win six weeks ago. After finishing 3rd in his debut- sprinting at Gulfstream in December, he returned and stretched out in a 1 1/16-mile Maiden on January 29th. He sat a stalking trip under Alvarado and powered clear in the stretch to Win by a widening 2 ¾ lengths, good for a 91 Speed Figure that was 20 points higher than his debut. Even a modest bump against Stakes company Saturday gives him a chance at the Victory, and his stalking running style is an asset.

4. CLASSIC CAUSEWAY [ML 8-5] Jockey: Irad Ortiz. Trainer: Brian Lynch. Figures to be a heavy Post-Time favorite as he tries to become the first horse to Win both the Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Tampa Bay Derby since DESTIN in 2016. He rolled in the Sam Davis, (the local prep for Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby), by 3 ¾ lengths in a very impressive start to his 3-year-old season. CLASSIC CAUSEWAY first turned heads with a blowout debut Win last September at Saratoga and then ran competitively in two Graded Stakes races for 2-year-olds that offered Kentucky Derby points, finishing 3rd in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and 2nd in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. With the lack of any collective speed in the Tampa Bay Derby there’s a good chance that Ortiz puts his mount on the lead once again and plays catch me if you can. If he Wins the Tampa Bay Derby in similar fashion to the Sam F. Davis, he’ll cement his status as one of the top contenders heading into the Kentucky Derby on May 7th.

5. GIANT GAME [ML 10-1] Jockey: Joe Talamo. Trainer: Dale Romans. This 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 3rd-place finisher is back for a reset on his 3-year-old campaign after he finished 8th of nine runners in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 5th. After that race his connections tweeted that he had displaced his soft palate during the race, causing breathing difficulty. That issue has been fixed. If GIANT GAME is indeed back on track, he could pose a threat to some of the contenders here Saturday. He has posted swift workouts since the Holy Bull.

6. GOLDEN GLIDER [ML 12-1] Jockey: Antonio Gallardo. Trainer: Mark Casse. He’s looking to rebound here  after he finished 5th in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. That was the first defeat for the son of GHOSTZAPPER after Winning his first two starts at Woodbine on its synthetic main track and then at Tampa Bay Downs on dirt. Both of those races were around two turns. He is bred to relish route racing. He raced evenly in the Sam F. Davis but was never a threat, so major improvement is necessary Saturday. If he does bounce back, GOLDEN GLIDER is a good candidate to fill out the Exacta and/or Trifecta and has an outside chance at the upset.

7. STRIKE HARD [ML 8-1] Jockey: Luis Saez. Trainer: Matthew Williams. He finished 4th in the Sam F. Davis and was making up some ground in the stretch after racing near the back of the field early on. He entered the Sam Davis off of a runner-up effort  in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park on New Year’s Day. STRIKE HARD will need to improve on his Sam Davis effort to run with CLASSIC CAUSEWAY and SHIPSATIONAL in the Tampa Bay Derby, but this hard-trying type is a solid horse to use in Exacta and Trifecta tickets. Getting Gulfstream Park’s leading jockey- Luis Saez to ride for the first time is a plus.

8. MAJOR GENERAL [ML 9-2] Jockey: Javier Castellano. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. He Won the very first prep race on the road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby when he took the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois Stakes by a neck last September at Churchill Downs. He has not raced since then and faces a stiff challenge coming back in a competitive Tampa Bay Derby off of a nearly six-month layoff. This colt had Won his Maiden at Saratoga one race prior to the Iroquois, also by a neck, and showed grit in fending off stretch challenges from a couple of foes in the Iroquois. If he’s fit enough, he should provide some pace pressure in Saturday’s return to the track. He’ll have to run a lot faster than he did as a 2-year-old last fall to have any chance at posting an upset in his 3-year-old debut, though.

9. SHIPSATIONAL [ML 5-1] Jockey: Manny Franco. Trainer: Edward Baker. This New York-bred ran very well in his first try against open company when shipping down to Tampa and finishing a late-closing 2nd in the Sam F. Davis. He had Won three of four starts against fellow New York-breds last fall as a juvenile, including two Stakes races at Belmont Park. Barker has said that he didn’t have SHIPSATIONAL fully tuned up for the Sam Davis. If the New York-based conditioner is right, then he is a main threat to CLASSIC CAUSEWAY and should be considered for all exotic bets. Not-For-Nothing; SHIPSATIONAL is two-for-two on wet tracks, both coming last year in New York, and there is some rain in the forecast Saturday in Tampa Bay.

10. BELGRADE [ML 20-1] Jockey: Hector Diaz Jr. Trainer: Graham Motion. He is unbeaten and profiles as a worthy longshot candidate in the Tampa Bay Derby, arriving off of a pair of Wins, one at Fair Grounds and most recently at Tampa Bay Downs, he rallied from off the pace each time and finished well. He’ll have to boost his Speed Figure by around 10 points to be competitive here, but that is achievable if he continues to develop under the expert supervision of Graham Motion. This colt has a pedigree for stretching out as a son of HARDSPUN, the 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up. BELGRADE should be rolling late in the Tampa Bay Derby and could hit the board if the pace scenario plays in his favor.

11. MONEY SUPPLY [ML 10-1] Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Trainer: Chad Brown.  This highly regarded colt ran extremely well in his career debut at Tampa Bay Downs. That said, he’s taking a huge leap in class running in a Grade 2 race in only his 2nd start. He was bumped at the start in his debut February 12th going six furlongs at Tampa, but recovered and weaved his way from near the back of the pack to reach contention by the time the field hit the stretch. He then moved to the inside and closed strongly under Ortiz to Win by two lengths. Ortiz stays aboard and this colt should be able to manage two turns. He’ll be up against it, though, facing elite speed from CLASSIC CAUSEWAY and grouped together with a handful of horses who have similar come-from-behind running styles and more experience. All told, MONEY SUPPLY is the infamous mystery horse in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby.

12. SPIN WHEEL [ML 20-1] Jockey: Jesus Castanon. Trainer: Rusty Arnold. He enters off of a well-beaten 6th-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes. He was never prominent in his 3-year-old debut and checked in 10 ¾ lengths behind the Winner. As a juvenile, he broke his Maiden in his third start, rallying from well back to win a 1 1/8-mile race by a nose at Churchill Downs in November. Drawing the far outside post Saturday should not matter for this deep closer, but the overall pace may not be fast enough to set up his rally. He might, at best, fill out the Superfecta.

SUMMARY: Let there be no doubt, #4 CLASSIC CAUSEWAY is the one to beat here. But with a Morning Line of 8-5 the Daily Racing Blog is going to take a pass on him and look elsewhere for some Value.

Which leads us to #9 SHIPSATIONAL. The New York-Bred, comes into this race with solid form and he has two impressive Wins over sloppy tracks at Belmont and Saratoga.  This is his 2nd start off the layoff and he comes into the race with a pair of bullet works. But if he fails to break sharp though or misfires for any other reason, then CLASSIC CAUSEWAY could just wire the field.

As a live-longshot we’re leaning toward #5 GIANT GAME. He is bred for the distance and is working very smartly since making his three-year-old debut in the Holy Bull four weeks ago. He just wasn’t right that day and he scratched last week from the Fountain of Youth Stakes.  This colt will be racing at his 5th different track in as many races, and he’s hit the board in three of his 4 starts. Another one making his 2nd start off a layoff.  

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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