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OLDSMAR, FL – The highlight of the Tampa Bay Downs season is this Saturday’s running of the $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2), a race that seems to grow in popularity every season.
This year’s edition attracted 12 well-matched 3-year-olds. Scheduled as the 11th on a 12-race card, the Tampa Bay Derby is one of six stakes and has a post time of 5:25 PM EST.
Leading the charge is the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) winner Candy Man Rocket, who’s back at Tampa Bay Downs looking for more success. The Bill Mott trainee has won 2 in a row, with his other victory coming in dominating fashion at Gulfstream Park against maiden special weight company. Junior Alvarado has the mount once again as he breaks from post 3.
Trainer Todd Pletcher sent two for a race in which he’s had plenty of success. Promise Keeper looks like the stronger of the two, having broken his maiden last time out at Gulfstream Park in solid fashion. However, Unbridled Honor broke his maiden here last time out, giving him the local advantage. Luis Saez ships in to guide Promise Keeper from post 11 and Julien Leparoux comes over to ride Unbridled Honor from post 9.
Sittin On Go needs to turn things around after a few poor efforts for trainer Dale Romans. He won the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old but has had very little success since. Roberto Alvarado Jr. will try to get this horse turned around when the duo breaks from the far outside post 12.
The full field from the rail out: My Liberty, Super Strong, Candy Man Rocket, King of Dreams, Boca Boy, Awesome Gerry, Moonlite Strike, Hidden Stash, Unbridled Honor, Helium, Promise Keeper, and Sittin On Go.
#8 Hidden Stash – This race seems like it should set up perfectly for closers, and Hidden Stash is the best one in this race. He was a late-running third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and could improve with this being the second start off the layoff. Regular jockey Rafael Bejarano gets back aboard and al the signs point to this horse having a solid shot to turn the tables on Candy Man Rocket. His price makes him very enticing, too.
#3 Candy Man Rocket – He can make it 3 in a row here and has shown that he can sit off the pace, which will be important in this spot. Having a win over this surface is pretty important, too. He’s the deserving favorite and the one to beat.
#11 Promise Keeper – We’ll see if Pletcher can jump onto the Derby scene after a tough start with his other 3-year-olds. This horse showed promise last time, defeating maiden special weight company at Gulfstream Park by 5 lengths, and he has solid early quickness that could be valuable here. He’s also drawn outside all the other speed, giving jockey Luis Saez plenty of options. He could be ready to put his best foot forward in this spot.
#6 Awesome Jerry – We’ll see if he can bounce back from a poor performance last time out in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3). His effort 2 starts back in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes would make him competitive in this group and the pace on paper is in his favor. Saffie Joseph Jr. is always dangerous no matter where he enters his horses.
#10 Helium – The good news is this horse is undefeated in 2 starts. The bad news is both of those came on the Woodbine synthetic in one-turn races, plus we haven’t seen him since October 18. All of those factors make it hard to play a win wager on him, but he’s shown ability, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he gives a good effort here.
#5 Boca Boy – He ran well off the layoff in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), finishing third at odds of 19/1 after setting a hot pace. We might see an improved performance from him after knocking the rust off and he drew a decent inside post position. He’ll be a big price once again, making him an interesting play.
#9 Unbridled Honor – He owns a win over the surface and has faced some nice runners in the past, plus his running style should be well-suited in this spot. He’s going to need to show some improvement to have a shot, but the price might be worth a small swing.
#4 King of Dreams – It’s interesting to see him show back up on dirt after a very nice turf maiden special weight win at Gulfstream Park. His debut on dirt didn’t go well, making him skeptical in this spot.
#12 Sittin On Go – Can he regain any sort of form, or was he just a flash in the pan? He has done virtually no running at all since upsetting the Iroquois Stakes (G3) as a 2-year-old. We can’t take him seriously until he shows that type of race again.
#7 Moonlite Strike – This horse was dreadful in his last start, finishing a distant fourth in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He faces an easier group here but must show big improvement, or else he has very little chance of making an impact.
#1 My Liberty – It took this horse a while to break his maiden, and even when he did, the speed figure did not come back strongly. This is a wide-open affair, but if he wins, it would be a pretty big surprise.
#2 Super Strong – We don’t know anything about this one who ships up from Camarero and moves to the barn of Saffie Joseph Jr. Usually these types of horses don’t do well in races of this caliber.
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