Tampa Bay Derby


Kentucky Derby prep season continues on Saturday with the Tampa Bay Derby. Tampa Bay is a great racetrack to put a solid foundation in a horse and I always watch horses running back after competing at Tampa.


The Tampa Bay Derby drew a full field of 12. I’ll run them down and see what shakes out.


Grantham comes out of what appears to be a key race and make get upgraded still. He was wide in that running of the Withers and has the rail here. He sits just off the speed so will be in a good spot. While he has a few things going for him I don’t see him as being as good as some of the others he will face on Saturday.


Trademark was dusted in the Sam F. Davis but comes back here just the same. A vote of confidence by the trainer perhaps, but I am not the trainer and don’t see it. He may have needed the race and can improve, but he will have to do a complete turnaround and I will have to see it to believe it.


Happy Boy Rocket looks like an up and comer. He has improved in each of his two starts and will have to make that three for three in improving efforts to contend here. I think he can run well and make some noise in here and possibly pull it off.


Classic Causeway won the Sam F. Davis in his season debut. He outran the other speed early and just about wired the field. He is a legitimate favorite and looks like a Kentucky Derby hopeful. He can sit a trip if he has too as well. No knocks here except the short price you will have to take.


I thought Giant Game would run better in the Holy Bull. He had zero to offer that day but still comes back here. He will have to show me to convince me he belongs in this spot.


I liked Golden Glider in the Sam F. Davis. I thought he ran the kind of race he can build off and go forward off. Gallardo is back and I think he will be running late. If he gets the pace up front and a clear run, I think he can upset these.


Strike Hard is honest and likes to show up. He gets Saez and may land a piece, but I think he is a cut below a few in here.


Major General is two for two, with both those starts and wins coming at two. He makes his three-year old debut in here and it is a tough spot to do that. Pletcher knows how to spot them and knows where they belong. He was game winning his debut at Saratoga, and game winning a stake at Churchill Downs. He is definitely a contender in my view.


Shipsational is game and shows up. He ran well to finish second in the Sam F. Davis and now is second off the bench. Castellano lands on Pletcher’s horse and Manny Franco comes in from New York to ride. He is another I think can land a share, but I don’t see him as the winner.


Belgrade stretches out after two sprint wins, one coming over this track which is a help. He was well bet and well touted in both his starts. He brings a lot of hype to the table, now he will have to prove he is the goods.


I love when Chad Brown spots a horse very aggressively and he does exactly that here with Money Supply. This horse has a very smart win over this tricky Tampa racetrack. He came from well off the pace to win going away. Jose is back up and while we may not know what he beat the race was pretty to watch and the numbers came back good. He split horses showing some guts and if Chad runs him here, we know two things, he belongs now or will very soon. He will take money and is a tough wager, but I believe he has a real chance. If he does not win, watch for the future tell.


Spin Wheel flopped at big odds in the Holy Bull. He will not have an easier time here. Arnold can be very sneaky at huge prices, but I am not a believer today.


While I respect Classic Causeway I will not lean on him here. I will use a few horses to try and knock him out. Happy Boy Rocket, Golden Glider and Money Supply will be on my multi race tickets. It will be a game time decision as to whether I go back at any of them or leave well enough alone.



I’ll run down the field and try and separate the contenders from the pretenders.

On paper this looks like a hot and contested pace race. It appears there is plenty of early speed in here which would have been an ideal set up for Mo Donegal. He is slightly sick and will point to the Wood Memorial. I would have preferred he was well and stayed in here. I was not sold on him either.

Markhamian has speed, comes out of sprints, drew the rail and will be part of the pace or at least should be. This is a tough spot to stretch out and I suspect he will be gobbled up at some point.

Simplication gets Jose Ortiz for Javier Castellano. We all saw the bad break and subsequent rally into contention. That will drive the price down considerably. Will he now rate or was the last a result of the break and a one time deal? I’m not sure and don’t care. I will bet against this one either way. I was not as impressed as many others last time. He is OK, and would be anything but a shocker, but he is not for me.

Howling Time is interesting. He makes his three-year old debut and has showed talent already. Dale Romans went from being deadly in these spots to almost an also ran. Maybe he can wake up from the crypt. Howling Time rallied from off the pace in his first two starts, both wins, one at six and one at a distance. His third race was in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, and he went for the lead and tired. He is working fast and good, he should be coming from off the pace with plenty of speed to set him up, and probably gets completely overlooked. He comes out of a key race despite the Smile Happy flop, and I think he is dangerous.

In Due Time should be sitting in a good spot in here. If he can finish at two turns the way he finished last time in a one turn mile he can make noise in here. I don’t think he is up to winning this, and a regress off the last is possible, I’ll pass.

Dean Delivers has been all sprint so far and again this is a tough spot to stretch out. He will have some pace, but I doubt he is in this when it counts.

Rattle and Roll is another I find interesting and live. He comes from off the pace and has a nice late rally in his arsenal. His works coming in are excellent, he is a Grade 1 winner at Keeneland, and I think he will fire in this three-year-old debut into the right set up.

A.P.’s Secret is going to take money, maybe more than he should. He’ll likely be up close in here and I have reservations about him. He will have to prove to me he is this good.

Emmanuel will also take money, plenty of it and has much to prove here. That said he is two for two, and I like horses coming off the Tampa track. I don’t believe he needs the lead and despite a lack of value and the need to improve to win, I have to call him a threat and contender.

High Oak can run, and I admit I am partial to him after a nice score I made in Saratoga when he won the Saratoga Special. He returns in a tough spot to stretch out and I see this as more of a prep or steppingstone race for him. Mott is too good for me to call him a toss.

I liked Giant Game last time and he had zero to offer. Fortunately for me I also like White Abarrio who got it done. Romans brings him right back; he has the right style, but the last flop is a mystery. He is a question mark for me.

O Captain comes in off two sprints and would need a big step forward to contend. I do not see it here.

If Galt goes he will have to overcome a tough post. His race in the Holy Bull was OK, but he showed speed there and will have to sit a trip from a wide slot here. I think he has an outside shot at a big price.

Ken McPeek is due some luck at this meet and I think I will lean to Rattle and Roll. He will have the right set-up, and I think he will fire off the bench.

I will go back at him in the pick 5 but use a few other contenders on the deeper ticket. Hopefully the price stays fair.

Enjoy the races!

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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