OLDSMAR - Eleven 3-year-olds were entered in the 39th annual Gr. II, $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby, to be run Saturday at the distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track. At stake, in addition to the purse money, are “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying points, awarded to the first four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is scheduled as the 11th race on a 12-race card beginning at 12:12 p.m. It is one of five stakes races on the program worth a combined $1-million in purse money. The first 7,500 patrons through the gates will receive a commemorative umbrella, with paid admission.
Florida-bred colt Win Win Win, who set a Tampa Bay Downs 7-furlong track record of 1:20.89 in his Pasco Stakes victory on Jan. 19, has been established at 5-2 on the morning-line. The second choice at 7-2 is the Florida-bred gelding Well Defined, who won the Gr. III Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 9 at the Tampa Bay Derby distance.
Reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Win Win Win, whose trainer, Michael Trombetta, is scheduled to be track announcer Richard Grunder’s guest at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the “Morning Glory Club” show on the first floor of the grandstand.
Two graded turf stakes for females are on tap: the Gr. II, $225,000 Hillsborough, 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 Hillsborough is the ninth race and the Florida Oaks is the 10th. Saturday’s other stakes are the $100,000 Challenger Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf.
Here is the field for the Tampa Bay Derby in post position order, with trainers and jockeys:
1. Admire, Dale Romans, Robby Albarado; 2. Sir Winston, Mark Casse, Julien Leparoux; 3. Lord Dragon, Jordan Blair, Jose A. Bracho; 4. Dream Maker, Mark Casse, Florent Geroux; 5. Well Defined, Kathleen O’Connell, Pablo Morales; 6. Outshine, Todd Pletcher, Joel Rosario; 7. Win Win Win, Michael Trombetta, Irad Ortiz, Jr.; 8. The Right Path, Jorge Duarte, Jr., Joe Bravo; 9. Dunph, Michael Maker, Daniel Centeno; 10. Tacitus, William Mott, Jose Ortiz; 11. Zenden, Victor Barboza, Jr., Samy Camacho.
Although the Live Oak Plantation homebred Win Win Win has been training here since his Pasco victory, the hometown favorite is Well Defined, a homebred racing for breeder-owner Gilbert G. Campbell’s Stonehedge Farm LLC. Campbell and O’Connell teamed to win the 2011 Tampa Bay Derby with Watch Me Go to earn a trip to that year’s Kentucky Derby, and the two-time leading Tampa Bay Downs conditioner is optimistic Well Defined is sitting on another big effort after his Sam F. Davis romp.
“He’s coming up to the race just as good or better than last time. I couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing, and I’m happy with the post position,” O’Connell said. Morales will be riding Well Defined for the second time after guiding him in his front-running Sam F. Davis score. “This horse has plenty of speed, and Pablo fits him very well,” O’Connell said. “He just has to be forwardly placed, and the rest will be seen. I’m just happy he’s going in the right direction and hope they all stay healthy. We need to run a big race Saturday.”
The third choice on the morning line at 4-1 is Dream Maker, one of two entrants trained by Mark Casse, along with Sir Winston.
The Hillsborough has attracted 10 older fillies and mares. Top contenders include millionaire Hawksmoor, trainer Arnaud Delacour’s 6-year-old mare who won the Gr. III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes here on Feb. 9; and the Chad Brown-trained duo of 5-year-old French-breds Onthemoonagain and Rymska.
There are 11 3-year-old fillies entered in the Florida Oaks. Brown, the three-time reigning Eclipse award Outstanding Trainer, has entered the French-bred La Feve and the Great Britain-bred Blowout. Other Florida Oaks entrants certain to attract attention and wagering dollars are Gr. II turf winner Concrete Rose, trained by George “Rusty” Arnold II, and Elsa, a Gr. III winner from the barn of Michael Stidham.
The Columbia has drawn 11 sophomores, including the Brown-trained Irish-bred Digital Age and Casse’s Proliferate. Heading the six-horse Challenger field are Casse’s 4-year-old colt Flameaway, who won last year’s Sam F. Davis and finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby, and the John P. Terranova II-trained 5-year-old Killybegs Captain, upset winner of the Pelican Stakes here on Feb. 16
Santos earns Jockey of Month honor. Ademar Santos has spent the last six weeks reminding Tampa Bay Downs horsemen he’s the same guy who finished eighth in the standings last season with 32 victories. Santos didn’t ride his first race this season until almost a month after the start of the meeting, and he won with only two of his first 40 starters. Since Feb. 6, however, he has won 10 times from 55 mounts, earning the Sen~or Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month Award.
“It’s important to know that my work is being seen, and I just have to enjoy it and try to get some more wins,” said Santos, who won races for six trainers during his recent roll. “I’m the same jockey as I’ve been, but I’m riding better horses now, I’ve gotten some lucky trips and I’ve won a few races.”
Santos knew he might start slow after he arrived late from Woodbine in Toronto, where he had a strong summer and fall that included a victory in the Grade II, $210,400 Kennedy Road Stakes on Ikerrin Road on Nov. 24 (also opening day at Tampa Bay Downs). After he arrived here, some questioned the wisdom of using his wife, Rose Miranda, as his agent. But they have proven to be a formidable team, with Miranda enthusiastically selling her rider’s talent and work ethic to Oldsmar trainers.
“Some people might look at it like she’s my agent because we’re married, but we work well together,” said Santos, who has climbed into a tie for sixth in the standings with 17 victories. “She does a great job getting me on good horses, and the rest is up to me. Even if I’m on (a long shot), it’s up to me to make a difference.”
Santos acknowledges that when he first came to Tampa Bay Downs 10 years ago, he might not have dealt as well with a slow start. Experience helps, as well as embracing the responsibilities of fatherhood with his three sons: twins Lucas and Gabriel, 12, and Rafael, 10. “I’m more mature, and I know the people because I’ve been coming here since 2009, so they know what I can do,” he said. “The track is kind of like a little family, and over the years you get more confident and people get more confidence in you.”