Monday, February 25, 2019
OLDSMAR – A great many racing fans took notice when long-time observer Steve Haskin moved Win Win Win into the top half of his “Derby Dozen” rankings at bloodhorse.com following the colt’s record-shattering victory in the 7-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 19.
This week, Haskin raised Win Win Win to the No. 4 spot, behind Bob Baffert’s 1-2 punch of Game Winner and Improbable and Risen Star Stakes winner War of Will. As if to affirm Haskin’s high opinion, Win Win Win breezed 5 furlongs from the gate this morning in 59 1/5 seconds with Antonio Gallardo aboard, the fastest of 33 recorded times at the distance.
The Live Oak Plantation homebred, who is among 54 nominees for the 39th renewal of the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 9, appears ready to take the next step toward a berth in the Kentucky Derby.
Even veteran trainer Michael Trombetta, who saddled Sweetnorthernsaint to a Kentucky Derby appearance and a second-place Preakness finish to Bernardini in 2006, is starting to get that faraway, springtime-in-Louisville look. “He is one of those kind of horses that does what you tell him to do. If I want him to work a half-mile in 52 seconds, he does it, and if I need him to work faster than that he’ll do that, too,” Trombetta said. “I’ve made several trips here to watch him work, and he is doing everything I would have hoped for going into (the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby). He’s very willing to do whatever you need himto do, and when you ask him to do more, he does more.”
What Win Win Win hasn’t done in his four-race career, as Trombetta is quick to acknowledge, is race around two turns. That would change in the Tampa Bay Derby, contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track.
The Florida-bred’s breeding would suggest he’ll go even farther than eight-and-a-half furlongs; both his paternal and maternal grandsires, Sunday Silence and Smarty Jones, won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and finished second in the Belmont. But there are no guarantees at this level, and Trombetta knows March 9 is something of an acid test for his promising youngster.
“We’re hoping he can get us to those distances, but I truly don’t know. He needs to show that he’s good enough to do that – they all do,” Trombetta said. “There will be plenty of good horses in that starting gate as they’re all starting to converge on these bigger races, so this is the next test. We’ve been putting some nice gallops and nice breezes under him and he is doing everything he’s supposed to, so I’m as anxious as anyone else to see what he will do.”
The Tampa Bay Derby is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, awarding 50, 20, 10 and 5 points to the top four finishers toward one of the maximum 20 spots in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. It is also one of five stakes scheduled here on March 9, with total purse money for those races a cool $1-million.
Two other graded stakes are scheduled on the turf: the Gr. II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward at a distance of a mile-and-an-eighth, and the Gr. III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth. The other stakes are the $100,000 Challenger Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward going a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds racing a mile on the turf.
Win Win Win, bred by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Stud, is 3-for-4 with earnings of $127,300, his only defeat coming to Alwaysmining in the Heft Stakes at Laurel on Dec. 29 after he walked out of the gate and was about 10 lengths behind heading down the backstretch. He made a good run into the stretch but his ability to catch the pacesetter was compromised when Alwaysmining had him pinned to the rail.
In the Pasco three weeks later, Win Win Win drew off by seven-and-a-quarter lengths in 1:20.89 for 7 furlongs, bettering the track record by .51 seconds. He's won his three races by a total of 14 1/4 lengths.
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Other Tampa Bay Derby nominees on Haskin’s “Derby Dozen” list are No. 5 Signalman, a Ken McPeek-trained colt who finished third in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and won the Gr. II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs in his most recent start; No. 7 Omaha Beach, a Richard Mandella-trained colt who broke his maiden in impressive fashion on Feb. 2 at Santa Anita after three consecutive runner-up efforts; No. 10 Hidden Scroll, from the barn of Bill Mott, who won his only start on Jan. 26 at Gulfstream; and No. 11 Dream Maker, under the care of Mark Casse, now 2-for-4 after a recent allowance/optional claiming victory at Fair Grounds.
McPeek won the 1999 Tampa Bay Derby with Pineaff, while Mott captured the 1997 running with Zede and Casse the 2012 race with Prospective.
Stonehedge Farm's Sam F. Davis triumph with Well Defined has earned the colt honorable-mention status, Haskin surmising several of his ancestors possess the stamina influence to make him dangerous at the Tampa Bay Derby distance and beyond.
Five-time Tampa Bay Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher has nominated nine sophomores to the race, including Sam F. Davis third-place finisher So Alive, and Spinoff, a good-looking allowance/optional claiming winner at Tampa on Friday. Pletcher’s Tampa Bay Derby winners are Limehouse (2004), Verrazano (2013), Carpe Diem (2015), Destin (2016) and Tapwrit (2017).