A field of 11* will line up to take a major step toward the Kentucky Derby in the Grade 2, $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby, which serves as the centerpiece of Festival Day at Tampa Bay Downs. We say 11* but the race will actually have 9 horses start with two confirmed scratches. Free Drop Billy and Enticed were both cross-entered here, as their plans to go to Aqueduct for the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes nearly got derailed by weather. However, they did end up making it to New York, which means they will run there.
The Tampa Bay Derby is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Prep Race awarding 50 points to the winner and 20, 10, and 5 points to the next three finishers toward eligibility for the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented at Churchill Downs. As the 11th on a 12-race program, it will be contested at 1 1/16 miles over the main track.
This race has produced two winners of the Kentucky Derby: Street Sense in 2007 and Super Saver (third in the Tampa Bay Derby) in 2010. Recently, the race has been all about trainer Todd Pletcher, as he’s used the Tampa Bay route with several of his best 3-year-olds. Last year, Tapwrit was victorious before going on to win the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.
Pletcher will have a shot this year with Vino Rosso, the third-place finisher in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes in his last start. That race saw the son of Curlin gaining major ground late in the race before galloping right past the two front-runners, Catholic Boy and Flameaway, after the wire. Added distance is probably what this colt needs more than anything, which he won’t get here, but he may get the benefit of a hot pace up front, which will help.
The field from the rail out: Arazi Like Move, Tiz Mischief, Vino Rosso, Grandpa Knows Best, Flameaway, Enticed, Free Drop Billy, World of Trouble, Untamed Domain, Quip, and Caloric.
#3 Vino Rosso – This Pletcher trainee is quietly picking up steam and could be primed for a breakout performance in this race. Last time out in the Sam F. Davis, he was making up ground late on Flameaway and Catholic Boy, then galloped out well clear of those two just moments after the wire. This son of Curlin is going to relish races where the distance gets longer. Unfortunately, he won’t get added distance here, but look out for him closing late into a hot pace. Flameaway is not likely to get an easy lead this time, which could put Vino Rosso in the driver’s seat, as he will be the first one to make a run at the leaders.
Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers
#9 Untamed Domain – He ran a disappointing third in his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park, the Grade 3 Dania Beach Stakes, and will now switch to the dirt for the first time. However, his race last time out was nothing more than a prep for this one, so the screws have been tightened for a big run. How he takes to the dirt is the big question mark. From a talent and class prospective, he’s the standout in the race, but can he handle the dirt? His sire, Animal Kingdom, won the Kentucky Derby, so that’s a positive sign, but we won’t know how Untamed Domain will handle it until he shows us. The pace should set up for him to make a run at the end, so you have to consider him a major player.
#2 Tiz Mischief – This is a very sneaky horse for trainer Dale Romans, who looks to parlay last weekend’s Fountain of Youth success into more wins this weekend. There isn’t much flashy about this horse, but he has the right running style for this spot, considering the likely hot pace up front. Two races back, he narrowly lost the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and the third place finisher form that race, his stablemate Promises Fulfilled, came back to win the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. Flying under the radar, his price might be right.
#8 World of Trouble – This colt has a tremendous amount of talent and completely dominated the $125,000 Pasco Stakes last time out. This will be his first test around two turns, which is obviously a concern, but if he can get the distance, then there’s little doubt in my eyes that he will win here. Unfortunately, there will be plenty of speed in the race, and that could be his undoing, as the distance is such a question mark. He’s going to play a major factor in the race, but I am skeptical that he can hold on for the win.
#5 Flameaway – Simply put, this will be a favorite to play against in this spot. Yes, he did win the Sam F. Davis in his last start, but he also had things his own way on the front end. That is not likely to happen here, and overall, this field might be a tad better than what he faced in his last start. He should get some major credit for holding off the heavily-favored Catholic Boy in that last effort, but because of that big win, you won’t get the value needed to play him on top again here.
#10 Quip – He makes his 3-year-old debut after a disastrous trip in the Kentucky Jockey Club to end his 2017 season. He was two-for-two entering that race, but he had to dodge a couple of fallen horses and just couldn’t recover from it. He’s working out very well recently, and this spot seems to make sense for him. If he’s ready, then he could be dangerous.
#4 Grandpa Knows Best – He won two in a row to end his 2-year-old season, but now he steps up to stakes competition. It will be a tough ask for him to compete with this challenging group.
#1 Arazi Like Move – He looks to be completely overmatched, as he was dominated in the Pasco last time out. He’ll need to make a drastic improvement.
#11 Caloric – He’ll be the longest shot on the board, and for good reason. He seems to be totally overmatched against this type of competition.