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Tampa Bay Derby Preview: Sole Volante Tries for Two Straight
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Tampa Bay Derby Preview: Sole Volante Tries for Two Straight

The highlight of the Tampa Bay Downs season is set for this Saturday with the running of the $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2). This race seems to grow in popularity every season, and this year’s running has attracted a dozen 3-year-olds. Scheduled for race 11 on a 12-race card, the Tampa Bay Derby will share the card with three others stakes races. Post time for the race is 5:32 PM EST.

The Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) winner Sole Volante returns, this time as the headliner. Last time out, Independence Hall was all the rage, but Sole Volante had other things on his mind. After dropping towards the back of the pack throughout the early stages, he zoomed home in the stretch, easily passing Independence Hall for a 2 1/2-length win. He’ll break from post 7 with Florent Geroux up for the ride.

The Saffie Joseph, Jr., trainee Chance It will ship from Gulfstream Park for the event after scratching out of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) last weekend. He seemed well-meant for that event, but his connections opted not to run after he drew the far outside post. He last raced in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, where he gamely held off As Seen on Tv for a nose victory. Paco Lopez will be aboard as he breaks from post 4.

The impressive recent maiden special weight winner Spa City will look to hop onto the Kentucky Derby Trail here. After two failed attempts, Spa City put it all together last time out at Gulfstream Park, winning a 1 1/8-mile event by a length. He gets Daniel Centeno to ride after drawing gate 2.

The full field from the rail out: Texas Swing, Spa City, Relentless Dancer, Chance It, Market Analysis, Mo Mosa, Sole Volante, Letmeno, Unrighteous, Bye Bye Melvin, King Guillermo, and Tons of Gold

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Top Choice 

#7 Sole Volante –  There is no reason why the Sam F. Davis winner can’t do it again here. The pace setup seems to be in his favor, meaning he’ll get very similar conditions to what he had last time out. He also gets jockey Florent Geroux to ride, he having won last week’s  Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) with Sole Volante’s Patrick Biancone stablemate Ete Indien. He has a lot of factors on his side and will be the one whom they all have to hold off down the lane. 

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers 

#4 Chance It – This is a much better draw, but the potential pace setup could be tough. Several horses will want to go early and he is drawn towards the inside of most of that speed. He should still be tough in this spot, but the distance is a real question mark. 

 #5 Market Analysis – This heavily-hype Todd Pletcher colt debuted at big Gulfstream Park last time out on Pegasus World Cup Day and won a maiden special weight in impressive fashion. That win, coupled with a sizzling workout on February 29, has earned him a shot against much tougher foes here. He seems to have a good deal of talent, and it’s a tremendous sign that John Velazquez chose him over the other two Pletcher entries. This may be a step up in class, but expect him to run well. 

#2 Spa City – This horse woke up in a big way last time out, taking home a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park. His workouts since then have been solid, making him very intriguing, but his inside post position might not do him many favors and he also must handle a jump up in class. He’s one to watch, though, as his talent seems high. 

Exotic Plays

#1 Texas Swing – Last time out, this horse shipped to Tampa Bay Downs on Sam F. Davis Day to run on the undercard and came home a winner by 1 1/4 lengths in a maiden special weight event. That is a solid effort for him to build upon, but it’s a bad sign that his regular rider Velezaquez jumped off in favor of his stablemate, Market Analysis. Still, this horse is good enough to at least make a little noise.

#8 Letmeno – This seems to be the classic “hit the board” type. He always comes with a late run down the lane, but he just comes up a bit short. Last time out, he was third in an ultra-tough allowance event that should have him sharp. We’ll see if he can get up and hit the board here at a nice price.

Party Crashers

#3 Restless Dancer – At the time, his blowout fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) looked bad, but now, it looks a little better. He was never in contention that day, but the top two finishers – Tiz the Law and Ete Indien – are prime Kentucky Derby contenders. That is enough to make him interesting here. He could also improve, with this being his second start off of the layoff. He is a logical longshot. 

Throw Outs

#9 Unrighteous – It’s interesting that Pletcher entered this maiden to run here, especially with so many other options out there. He fits decently with this group on paper when it comes to speed figures, but it’s just hard to see him making an impact in this tough spot. 

#10 Bye Bye Melvin – His one dirt prior start was a third-place effort in a maiden special weight at Keeneland. Since then, he has won two in a row, but both were on turf. He’ll be hard-pressed to repeat those efforts on this surface.

#6 Mo Mosa – He’ll switch to the dirt after three straight starts at Turfway Park on the synthetic surface. Last time out, he broke his maiden stylishly to earn a shot in this event. We’ll wait and see how he runs on the new surface.

#11 King Guillermo – Another horse with just one race on the dirt that didn’t go well, as he finished a well-beat sixth on debut at Gulfstream Park. His two subsequent turf races were solid, but that doesn’t mean that he can switch back and maintain his success.

#12 Tons of Gold – There’s not a lot to say about this maiden who is for 8 lifetime. He’s been defeated by several nice horses, which is positive, but he’s never been close to winning this year. Look for him to be the longest shot on the board. 

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