Sunday, February 12, 2017
Lowers Destin's mark . . .
When Street Sense used Tampa Bay Downs as his springboard to his Kentucky Derby victory in 2007, the Tampa Bay Derby was his first start of the year. The son of Street Cry defeated Any Given Saturday by a nose and set a track record of 1:43.11 for the mile and one-sixteenth.
Street Sense went on to miss by a nose behind Dominican in the Blue Grass at Keeneland, but was easily best on the First Saturday in May, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Hard Spun, with Curlin almost six lengths back in third. He became the first Derby winner to emanate from Oldsmar.
Along came Super Saver in 2010, and he made the Tampa Bay Derby his first start of the season, too. The colt by Maria's Mon didn't even win it, finishing third by half a length to Odysseus and Schoolyard Dreams. Super Saver then went the Arkansas Derby route and lost by a neck to Line of David. However, in Louisville, Calvin Borel guided him to a 2 1/2-length score over Ice Box at odds of 8-1.
During that same season, Bold Start lowered Street Sense's track record to 1:42.83, and that mark stood until last year, when Destin lowered it by a fraction to 1:42.82. Yesterday, when McCraken overpowered eight other aspiring 3-year-olds to win the Gr. III Sam F. Davis Stakes, he took it down to 1:42.45. McCraken is a son of Ghostzapper out of the Seeking the Gold mare Ivory Empress, owned and bred by Whitham Thorougbreds, the same people who gave us the magnificent Argentinian Bayakoa, champion older mare in 1989 and '90.
McCraken is now a perfect 4-for-4, and, ironically, one of his 2016 victories came in the $83,000, one-mile Street Sense at Churchill Downs, where he previously had broken his maiden by 2 1/2 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs and later won the Gr. II Kentucky Jockey Club at 1 1/16 miles by 1 1/4 lengths. Brian Hernandez has been aboard in all four.
Yesterday, Hernandez did what he did in the first three, taking the colt back to seventh and letting everybody else do the heavy lifting. When he swung McCraken to the outside and turned him loose, it was never in doubt and a legitimate Derby contender was unveiled. Stella Thayer's VIP room just past the finish line was packed with Whitham family members from all over the place and they all crowded into the winner's circle to accept the extremely heavy trophy.
McCraken picked up another 10 points toward Derby eligibility, which is just a formality now. He'll probably hang around for the Tampa Bay Derby next month and might even make a start in April prior to heading for Louisville. The $120,000 check brought his total to $310,848.
The runner-up in the Sam F. Davis was Tapwrit, a son of Tapit who was purchased by John Malone, owner of Bridlewood Farm, for $1.2 million at the 2015 Saratoga sale. In his September debut, Tapwrit bombed out in a 7-furlong maiden special at Saratoga, but he rebounded with a victory at Gulfstream West prior to winning the $75,000 Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He closed nicely behind McCraken under Jose Ortiz and finished just 1 1/2 lengths behind, earning $40,000 and boosting his total to $103,902. He's also a Derby eligible, as is third-place finisher State of Honor.
The Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes, a Gr. III event at 1 1/16 miles on the grass, was won by favored Isabella Sings, a 5-year-old Eskendereya mare who went over the $600,000 mark for Siena Farms, winning for the eighth time in 20 starts. The third-place finisher was Lambholm South's Evidently, a 6-year-old Gr. III-winning Smart Strike mare who came from out of the clouds to nail down the show spot. She's now 3-2-3 in 23 starts with earnings of $274,823 for Lambholm owner Roy Lerman, who is also her trainer.
Gulfstream Park was the clear winner in the battle for the betting dollar yesterday, with an all-sources handle of $15,978,605, followed by Santa Anita with $10,046,272. Tampa was right behind Frank Stronach's other track with $9,488,680, while Aqueduct, suffering from weather woes, reached just $7,169,037.