Kentucky Derby

Tampa Bay Derby Preview: Tapwrit Takes Center Stage

Andie Biancone/Coglianese Photo

After watching No Dozing breeze five furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs Sunday morning with his wife, Leigh, in the irons, trainer Arnaud Delacour pronounced the 3-year-old colt a likely starter for Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.

“Everything needs to go well between now and then, but we’re happy with where we’re at right now,” Delacour said.  “He started a touch slow today because Leigh had to wait a bit on a horse breezing in front of her, but he was moving well and picked it up nicely.”

Both Delacour and Tampa Bay Downs clocker George Horner timed No Dozing in 1:01 3/5, going the final furlong in 12 1/5 seconds. “He came back happy, and I’m very encouraged by the way he’s handling his training and behaving,” Delacour said.

No Dozing, a son of Union Rags-Stay Awake, by Pulpit, and owned by the Lael Stables of his breeders, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, is one of ten entries for the 37th edition of the 1 1/16 mile Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, a major “Road to the Kentucky Derby” prep race.

The headliners include Tapwrit, the runner-up in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes on February 11 at Tampa Bay Downs; State of Honor, the third-place Sam F. Davis finisher; Wild Shot, who finished fourth; and Beasley, a debut maiden-breaker at Aqueduct who followed that up with a pair of seconds in Gulfstream allowance optional claiming races.

A field of 10 sophomores drew into the race after the Sam F. Davis winner, undefeated McCraken, was withdrawn from consideration by trainer Ian Wilkes with an ankle strain.

Top Choice

#5 Tapwrit – Coming into the Sam F. Davis, I was very curious to see how this runner would do, and in my eyes, he answered a lot of questions with his fast-closing second place effort.  I never felt he was any threat to McCraken, but him passing several of the others like they were standing still was eye-catching.  He got lucky for his return in the Tampa Bay Derby, as the field is missing McCraken and Classic Empire; both were originally pointing to this race.  He’s got every right to improve in this race because he got a little bit of an education last time out.  I look for him to take advantage of the lighter-than-expected field and run down his biggest threats in this race.   

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#6 Beasley – If you think highly of Battalion Runner, then you also must think highly of Beasley.  Last time out, these two matched up in an allowance at Gulfstream Park, but Beasley proved to be a tough customer for Battalion Runner, only losing by a length and a quarter.  Beasley was also nearly eight lengths clear of the third-place finisher, another solid sign.  That kind of effort earned him a shot in this spot, and he also earned a lot of respect from me.  I debated for a while about making this horse my top pick and just couldn’t do it, but he’ll definitely be on all of my tickets.

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Exotic Wagers

#9 Wild Shot – I assumed he’d be on the lead last time out in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, but he actually sat off of it for most of the race while traveling very wide.  I’m hoping that drawing an outside post doesn’t cause the same thing to happen once again here, but if he can get a better trip, he could rebound and hit the board.  Despite the tough trip, he was still able to finish fourth last time out, and this race looks to be a little bit easier than the Sam F. Davis.

#8 State of Honor – He ran a pretty solid race last time out to hang on for third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, which earned him another chance here.  Two races back, he was beaten a head in his dirt debut at Gulfstream Park by Sonic Mule, but I think the experience at Tampa Bay and around two turns gives him an advantage over Sonic Mule.  I’m not sure he’s good enough to win this race, but he’ll be a player underneath.

Party Crashers

#4 No Dozing – He can’t possibly be as bad as what he ran in the Sam F. Davis Stakes.  He went into that race as the “wise guy” horse, but he was never a factor and finished sixth.  It was easily the worst race of his career, and I think he could bounce back here in a big way.  Something had to have gone wrong last time out that we don’t know about, and if it’s corrected, you could catch him at a much better price in this spot.  It’s also worth noting that this race is a little easier than the Sam F. Davis, which featured McCraken.  The value will be there.

#2 The Money Monster – He’s kind of a sneaky entry for trainer Bill Mott.  He’s two-for-two lifetime, and last time out, he won the Pasco Stakes, which is usually the local prep for the Sam F. Davis.  Obviously, the jump up in class is going to be very tough for him, but Mott knows how to progress a horse, so he could be ready to run a big race in this spot.  If he progresses, he fits into the picture pretty well, and his price will be right.

Throw Outs

#7 Sonic Mule – He’s a decent horse for trainer Todd Pletcher, but he’s most likely a cut below this type of competition.  He won back-to-back ungraded stakes at Gulfstream fairly impressively, but when he moved up in class last time out in the Grade 2 Swale Stakes, he finished third.  I think he’s more of a one-turn horse, so I don’t like the stretch out here.

#1 Tale of Silence – He looks to be overmatched in a big way, as he’s had several chances to pick up his second lifetime win against easier company and has been unsuccessful.  He’ll be unsuccessful again.

#3 Basha – Not completely without a shot, Basha has been running against decent competition at Gulfstream Park in smaller, ungraded stakes.  Here, he takes the step up, which I don’t think he’s ready for, but we’ll see if the Gulfstream form pushes him up a notch.

#10 Zion Valley – Here’s a curious entry, to say the least.  He’s an 0-for-6 maiden, with only one second place effort in his career, and 3 of those maiden races were at the maiden claiming level.

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