Tapit 3-year-old Tapit Trice scores by eight lengths in a Gulfstream allowance-optional claiming race
The lone race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series over the next two weeks, Saturday’s Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby offers 50 points toward a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. A full field of 12 has been entered, headlined by dominant allowance winner Tapit Trice for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Tampa Bay Derby is one of five stakes worth a combined $1 million in purse money Saturday at Tampa. Also on tap are the 25th running of the G2, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes; the G3, $200,000 Florida Oaks; the G3, $100,000 Challenger Stakes; and $75,000 Columbia Stakes. The five stakes races comprise an additional 50-cent Pick 5 wagering opportunity on the seventh through 11th races..
A pair of top distaffers will make their 2023 debuts on Saturday at Oaklawn Park: Millionaire Grade 1 winners Clairiere and Secret Oath are among eight horses entered in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes. Both are unraced since finishing third and fifth, respectively, in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
One Grade 1 race will be held this weekend, the Beholder Mile at Santa Anita Park. G1 winner Fun to Dream heads a field of eight, but faces two out-of-town shippers in Pauline’s Pearl and A Mo Reay.
Other significant stakes action around the country on Saturday includes the G3 Hurricane Bertie Stakes and Captiva Island Stakes at Gulfstream Park; the G3 San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita Park; the Phoenix Gold Cup card at Turf Paradise; the Correction Stakes at Aqueduct; and the Allen Black Cat LaCombe Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds.
Sunday’s action includes the G3 Santa Ana Stakes at Santa Anita.
5:15 p.m. – Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs
The 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby is a Championship Series event on the Road to the Kentucky Derby where the winner will receive 50 points in their attempt to qualify for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1). The second-through-fifth-place finishers will receive points on a 20-15-10-5 scale.
Dominating eight-length allowance winner Tapit Trice headlines a full field of 12 3-year-olds. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Tapit Trice began his career in New York where he broke his maiden at second asking by a neck against Gotham (G3) runner-up Slip Mahoney. Soon after that performance, Tapit Trice arrived at Pletcher’s Palm Beach Downs string. In his first start in Florida, Tapit Trice demolished five rivals in a first-level allowance contest at Gulfstream Park. Tapit Trice earned a stout 99 Brisnet Speed Rating for his allowance victory, the highest last out figure of any horse in the Tampa Bay Derby. Jockey Luis Saez will make the four-hour journey from Gulfstream Park to Tampa Bay Downs for the mount and break from post No. 6.
Other talented colts that entered the Tampa Bay Derby include the $250,000 Sam F. Davis second and third place finishers Groveland and Classic Car Wash, respectively.
Groveland, owned by Godolphin and trained by Eoin Harty, has been based at Tampa Bay Downs since November and has yet to finish outside the top three positions. In the Sam F. Davis, Groveland tracked from just off the swift early pace to finish 1 ¼ lengths behind Litigate, who is targeting the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2). Local rider Daniel Centeno will be in the irons from post 4.
Gary Barber’s Classic Car Wash finished third in the Sam F. Davis and was defeated by 2 ¾ lengths at odds of 12-1. The improving son of Noble Bird broke his maiden in eye-popping fashion by 8 ½ lengths in a maiden optional $50,000 claiming event on Dec. 2 at Gulfstream Park. In his first start against winners, the Mark Casse-trained Classic Car Wash defeated six rivals in a state-bred first-level allowance contest on the Gulfstream Park Tapeta surface. Jockey Emisael Jaramillo will once again have the call on Classic Car Wash and break from post 2.
Groveland, Mikey Bananas and Zydeceaux are not early Triple Crown nominees but can become eligible with a $6,000 payment due by March 27. Lord Miles will race with blinkers off. Shesterkin will add blinkers for the first time.
5:54 p.m. – Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park
Millionaire Grade 1 winners Clairiere and Secret Oath are among eight horses entered in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Oaklawn. Both are unraced since the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Clairiere finished third (beaten two noses), a result that denied the daughter of Curlin an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion older dirt female. Secret Oath finished fifth, beaten 5 ½ lengths by Malathaat. Like Clairiere, Secret Oath (3-year-old filly) was a finalist for an Eclipse Award in 2022.
Also entered in the Azeri are Grade 2 winner Interstatedaydream, Grade 3 winner Hidden Connection, 2022-2023 Oaklawn stakes winners Lovely Ride and Hot and Sultry, Moon Swag, another stakes winner, and Le Da Vida, a stakes winner in Chile.
7:00 p.m. – Grade 1 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita Park
A Grade 1 winner in search of her fifth consecutive win, California-bred Fun to Dream heads a field of eight older fillies and mares in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Beholder Mile. By 2016 Eclipse Champion 3-year-old Colt Arrogate, Fun to Dream took the opening day G1 La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs and dominated five rivals at the same distance in taking the G2 Santa Monica Stakes on Feb. 4 in a performance that suggested she’ll have no problem taking on top competition at a flat mile.
One of two prominent eastern shippers in the Beholder lineup, the Steve Asmussen-trained Pauline’s Pearl, a Grade 1 winner who comes off a solid win over a muddy surface going 1 1/16 miles at Sam Houston Race Park on Jan. 28, rates a huge chance with John Velazquez taking over for the first time.
Another talented shipper with a big chance is the Brad Cox-trained A Mo Reay, who will be ridden for the first time by Flavien Prat. A 4-year-old filly by Uncle Mo, she’s won two in a row, and ungraded stakes at a mile and 70 yards two starts back on Dec. 31 in New Orleans and in her first graded victory, a half length win going 1 1/16 miles in the G3 Bayakoa at Oaklawn Park Feb. 4.