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Pasco Preview: Freshened Nova Rags Could Be Live
Nova Rags breaking his maiden (Credit: NYRA)

Pasco Preview: Freshened Nova Rags Could Be Live

OLDSMAR, FL – After a brief freshening following his first 2 starts, Michael Shanley homebred Nova Rags could be live in Saturday’s $125,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Pasco is a 7-furlong dirt sprint restricted to 3-year-olds. This year’s edition is the seventh event on an 11-race card and has a local post time of 3:10 PM.

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Here’s a look at the full field for the Pasco:

1. Little Demon 5/1 – He finally broke his maiden at fifth asking in his most recent start after dropping in for a tag ($50k) for the first time; he won by 4 1/2 lengths. He then relocated to the barn of Kathleen O’Connell, who has two entered here and has put together a 36-7-6-4 record at this meet (through Wednesday). Antonio Gallardo rides for the first time.

2. Distorted Limits 8/1 – His connections supplemented him into the field after he broke his maiden by a 1/2-length over this course and distance on December 26. Newtown Anner Stud Farm paid $400k for him as a yearling, so the expectations are high, but the good news is that jockey Scott Spieth retains the mount for trainer Kelsey Danner; they’ve won 3 of 10 together. 

3. Ahimelech 8/1 – He also needed 5 starts before breaking his maiden, eventually succeeding in a 6-furlong sprint over the Presque Isle Downs synthetic main track last October. He recently fired a 5-furlong work in 1:01 for trainer Tim Hamm, who repeats wins at a 20% clip, but this Florida-bred gelding missed the board in 3 state-bred dirt sprints at Gulfstream Park.

4. Newyearsblockparty 6/1 – His connections supplemented him into this group after he finished a well-beaten fourth in the 6-furlong Limehouse Stakes at Gulfstream Park. That was his first start back after a 2-month break, so perhaps he needed to knock off the rust. He won 2 of his first 3 starts last summer while competing on the Mid-Atlantic circuit.

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5. The Distractor 9/2 – O’Connell’s second entry compiled a 3-1-0-2 record within a 34-day period last fall while racing exclusively at Gulfstream Park West, though he was risked for a $50k tag in his maiden-breaking debut. He’s been off since mid-November, but O’Connell wins 22% with a $2.17 ROI historically when her runners return from similar layoffs.

6. Thealligatorhunter 6/1 – He’s hit the board in 3 of his 4 starts thus far, including finishing third in the local 6-furlong Inaugural Stakes last time out behind the favorite, who went gate to wire. He’s yet to try racing this far, but his only poor performance to date came in the slop, so as long as Friday’s rain doesn’t extend, he should give a good account of himself here.

7. Foreman 12/1 – He broke his maiden over this course and distance last time out, taking a field of winless $25k claimers gate to wire and crossing 6 1/2 lengths much the best. The jump from the maiden claiming ranks to the stakes level is the biggest leap a horse can take, but trainer Gerald Bennett and jockey Daniel Centeno have teamed up to win 37% here since last year.

8. Nova Rags 2/1 – He rallied strong in the stretch to break his maiden on debut in a 6-furlong Belmont Park main track sprint, earning a 78 Beyer Speed Figure that’s the highest in this field. He returned less than a month later for the Nashua Stakes (G3) and finished a well-beaten fourth, but he could run much better here after taking the past 3 months off from racing.

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