Probable Tampa Bay Derby favorite Carpe Diem will have to prove he's the man come Saturday; Antonio Gallardo stays hot, now has 89 winners for the meeting.
Toasting Master, a two-time winner at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old; stakes-placed Ami’s Flatter, fourth here in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes on Jan. 31; and recent maiden winner Danzig Moon, from the barn of six-time Sovereign Award-winning trainer Mark Casse, have been added to the list of likely starters for Saturday’s 35th edition of the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby.
The mile-and-a-sixteenth race is the showcase of a lucrative stakes card that includes the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares on the grass and the $60,000 Challenger Stakes for older horses on the main track.
The first 7,500 fans to pass through the gates will receive a beach towel with the new Tampa Bay Downs logo, with paid admission.
The Tampa Bay Derby is expected to mark the 3-year-old debut of Carpe Diem, who has been on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands trail since finishing second to Texas Red in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.
Owned by WinStar Farm LLC and Stonestreet Stables LLC, the Todd Pletcher-trained Carpe Diem has been on a steady workout schedule at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach since January and has been drawing raves from seasoned observers. His most recent workout took place Saturday, a four-furlong breeze in 49.57 seconds.
In addition to the three named above, other likely challengers to Carpe Diem include the second and third-place finishers in the Sam F. Davis, Divining Rod and My Johnny Be Good, and Great Stuff, a maiden from the barn of trainer Ian Wilkes.
Danzig Moon is an intriguing possibility, as the Ontario-bred’s connections, Casse and owner John C. Oxley, won the 2012 Tampa Bay Derby with Prospective. Like Prospective, Danzig Moon is a son of Malibu Moon, who also sired 2010 Tampa Bay Derby winner Odysseus.
The field is almost certain to fluctuate before entries are taken in the Tampa Bay Downs racing office on Wednesday. The list of Tampa Bay Derby nominations includes 40 colts and geldings.
The Tampa Bay Derby is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, a points system that will help to determine the field for the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 2 at Churchill Downs.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby is comprised of a series of 35 designated races at tracks around the world, with points awarded to the top four finishers in each race. The 20 horses with the most points earn a spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses.
The Tampa Bay Derby – which has produced a pair of Kentucky Derby champions in its 2007 winner, Street Sense, and its 2010 third-place finisher, Super Saver – offers 50-20-10-5 points to its top four.
Should Toasting Master start, the Florida-bred would attempt to give the West Point Thoroughbreds ownership group headed by Terry Finley back-to-back Tampa Bay Derby victories. West Point Thoroughbreds owns last year’s winner, Ring Weekend, in partnership with St. Elias Stable.
Dale Romans trains Toasting Master.
In other Festival Day news, Tampa Bay Downs Racing Secretary Allison De Luca reported today that Hall of Fame trainer William Mott is considering his 3-year-old filly Quality Rocks for the Florida Oaks after severe rain forced her to be scratched from Saturday’s Grade III Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream. The Florida-bred, who won the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes last September as a 2-year-old, was a runner-up since in a pair of Grade III events and competed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita.
Mott has saddled the winners of two Florida Oaks, most recently Tapicat in 2013.
Reserved seats are available for the Festival Day celebration. For information on seating, call the Admissions Department at (813) 855-4401.
On today’s card, leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo rode three winners for the second consecutive day, giving him 89 victories for the meeting. Gallardo swept both halves of the daily double, winning the first race on 7-year-old gelding Determinato for owner William Rivera and trainer Saul Matos and returning to the winner’s circle after the second race on 6-year-old mare Mindfulness for owner Sharon B. Simms and trainer John Simms.
Gallardo added the ninth race to his haul aboard 6-year-old gelding Jarrod’s Commando for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., and trainer Jamie Ness.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. There will be a Pick-5 carryover pool of $18,972.12.
Racing action will be conducted four days a week – Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – through Kentucky Derby weekend.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Easter Sunday, April 5 for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and Three Card Poker in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.