Can the Tampa Bay Derby Produce Another Kentucky Derby Winner?

By Margaret Ransom

Since first contested in 1981, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) has produced two winners of the Kentucky Derby (G1) — Street Sense in 2007 and Super Saver in 2010. It has, however, produced a significant number of Derby starters and Saturday’s edition, with a field of 12 sophomores led by Sam F. Davis (G3) winner Classic Causeway, seeks to improve on those statistics.

Once again, the 1 1/16-mile event is sponsored by Lambholm South, a highly successful Thoroughbred nursery and training center located in Florida. American financier and businessman Jack Dreyfus founded Hobeau Farm in the 1960s and the facility was purchased by longtime horseman Roy S. Lerman in the mid-2000s and added to the previous Lambholm South facility once known as Allen Paulson’s Brookside Farm. Lerman opened Lambholm South in 2000 and it’s been one of the more successful operations in the Ocala, Florida area.

Tampa Bay Derby -

The start of the 2017 Tampa Bay Derby, won by eventual Belmont Stakes victor Tapwrit from post position 5. Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire.

Tapwrit won this race in 2017 before going on to win the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Verrazano won the Tampa Bay Derby before winning the Wood Memorial (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1) in 2013. Three years ago, the highly regarded Tacitus won this race en route to a win in the Wood and an official third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He also set the stakes record for the 1 1/16-mile race when he logged 1:41.90.

Two years ago, King Guillermo stunned the field and posted a 4 ¾-length upset at odds of nearly 50-1 before finishing a game second to Nadal in the Arkansas Derby (G1). The Uncle Mo colt, who is owned by former baseball player Victor Martinez’s Victoria Ranch, hasn’t won a race in the two years since, unfortunately, with his best performance earning a fourth in an overnight handicap at Gulfstream Park last November.

Last year, D.J. Stables’ Helium remained undefeated with his Tampa Bay Derby win, but after an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby he has only earned three third-place finishes in three starts and hasn’t started since the Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes at Charles Town last August.

The Tampa Bay Derby is again a significant stop on Triple Crown trail and offers “Road to the Derby” points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top-four finishers, virtually guaranteeing the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby gate.

Todd Pletcher -

Todd Pletcher – Photo Courtesy of NYRA

Six jockeys – Daniel Centeno, Eibar Coa, Richard Migliore, Pat Day, John Velazquez, and Jose Ortiz each have ridden two winners of this race to tie as leading rider, while Todd Pletcher has saddled five winners, including four of the last nine (Limehouse, 2004; Verrazano, 2013; Carpe Diem, 2015; Destin, 2016; and Tapwrit, 2017).

Five winners of the Sam F. Davis, the traditional prep for this race, have gone on to win the Tampa Bay Derby — Phantom Jet (1987), Speedy Cure (1991), Marco Bay (1993), Thundering Storm (1996) and Burning Roma (2001) and this year the connections of Classic Causeway seek to send out a sixth.

Rain and thunderstorms are expected in the Tampa area on Saturday with the high reaching about 80 degrees. The Tampa Bay Derby is one of five stakes races – four graded — on the card and will be the 11th with a post time of 5:23 p.m. ET.

The field for the Tampa Bay Derby, in post-position order with jockeys, trainers and morning line odds, is:

  1. Grantham (Sany Camacho, Mike Maker), 20-1

Declaration of War—Darby Blush, by Arch

  1. Trademark (Daniel Centeno. Victoria Oliver), 30-1

Upstart—Creative Trick, by Creative Cause

  1. Happy Boy Rocket (Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott), 12-1

Runhappy—Bible Belt, by Pulpit

  1. Classic Causeway (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Brian Lynch), 8-5

Giant’s Causeway—Private World, by Thunder Gulch

  1. Giant Game (Joe Talamo, Dale Romans), 10-1

Giant’s Causeway—Game for More, by More Than Ready

  1. Golden Glider (Antonio Gallardo, Mark Casse), 12-1

Ghostzapper–Golden Scarf, by Orientate

  1. Strike Hard (Luis Saez, Matthew Williams), 8-1

Flashback—Coco’s Sweetie, by Tenpins

  1. Major General (Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher), 9-2

Constitution—No Mo Lemons, by Uncle Mo

  1. Shipsational (Manuel Franco, Edward Barker), 5-1

Midshipman—Regal Approach, by Thunder Gulch

  1. Belgrade (Hector Diaz, Jr., Graham Motion), 20-1

Hard Spun—Miss Prytania. By Eskendereya

  1. Money Supply (Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown), 10-1

Practical Joke—Evita’s Sister, by Candy Ride

  1. Spin Wheel (Jesus Castanon, Rusty Arnold), 20-1

Hard Spun—Zinzay, by Smart Strike