Hansen, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Male; Grade I winner Currency Swap; and Grade III Sam F. Davis winner Battle Hardened head a stellar list of 38 3-year-olds nominated to the 32nd running of the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10 at Tampa Bay Downs.
The mile-and-a-sixteenth Tampa Bay Derby, which has featured the Kentucky Derby winner two of the past five years, is the centerpiece of Tampa Bay Downs Festival Day, the biggest day on the Oldsmar track’s calendar. A commemorative cooler bag will be given to all patrons with paid admission while supplies last.
Also on tap are the 14th renewal of the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares at about a mile-and-an-eighth on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course and the 32nd running of the $100,000-guaranteed Stonewall Farm Ocala Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-40-yards on the main surface.
The Hillsborough closed Saturday with 32 nominations and the Stonewall Farm Ocala Suncoast Stakes closed with 24 nominations.
Hansen, the striking gray Kentucky-bred son of Pulpit-Stormy Sunday owned by Dr. Kendall Hansen and Sky Chai Racing and trained by Michael Maker, earned his Eclipse Award by staving off Union Rags by a head in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. In his 3-year-old debut, Hansen finished second to Algorithms in the Grade III, one-mile Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 29 on a sloppy track at Gulfstream.
Currency Swap, a Florida-bred son of High Cotton-Echo Bluff owned by Klaravich Stables, Inc. and W.H. Lawrence and trained by Teresa Pompay, has not raced since winning the Grade I Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 5. He has been working forwardly at Gulfstream for his sophomore debut, drilling four furlongs in 47 seconds Feb. 19 before Saturday’s five-furlong breeze in 1:01 4/5.
Battle Hardened broke his maiden in the Grade III Sam F. Davis under jockey Julien Leparoux, but it wasn’t a total shocker, since he had just missed in a mile-and-an-eighth maiden special weight contest at Gulfstream in his previous start Dec. 31. The Kentucky-bred son of Giant’s Causeway-Jen’s Fashion is owned by Michael B. Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier and trained by Eddie Kenneally.
The nominations list for the Tampa Bay Derby also includes Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner Gemologist, owned by WinStar Farm LLC and trained by Todd Pletcher, the connections of 2010 Tampa Bay Derby third-place finisher and Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver; Grade III Iroquois Stakes winner Motor City, a son of 2007 Tampa Bay Derby and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense; Grade III Sham Stakes winner Out of Bounds, owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable; and the second through sixth-place finishers in the Sam F. Davis: Prospective, Reveron, Ravelo’s Boy, Neck ‘n Neck and Fox Rules.
Pletcher, who won the 2004 Tampa Bay Derby with Limehouse, has nominated six horses to this year’s race. In addition to Gemologist, the Pletcher nominees are Big Blue Nation, who was third in the Three Chimneys Hopeful; Dan and Sheila; Heavy Breathing; Spring Hill Farm; and Windsurfer.
The Hillsborough nominations list is headed by recent Grade III Endeavour Stakes winner Zagora; Grade II winner Marketing Mix, who has won three of her last four starts in stakes company; and Denomination, who won last year’s Hillsborough.
Zagora, a 5-year-old French-bred mare owned by Martin Schwartz and trained by Chad Brown, won the Endeavour at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 4 under jockey Javier Castellano in her 2012 debut. Her lone victory in 2011 came in the Grade I Diana at Saratoga on July 30.
The 4-year-old Marketing Mix, owned by Glen Hill Farm and trained by Thomas Proctor, turned in a sharp 1:00 2/5 breeze for five furlongs workout Saturday on the Tampa Bay Downs main surface. After winning the Grade III Pucker Up Sept. 17 at Arlington, she finished second in the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland and won the Grade II Mrs. Revere at Churchill to close out 2011.
Also nominated from Proctor’s barn is 5-year-old Snow Top Mountain, who won the Grade III Suwanee River at Gulfstream on Feb. 11 and has finished first or second 13 times in 20 starts for owner Barbara Hunter.
Denomination, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred owned by Ghislaine Head and trained by Christophe Clement, had a productive 2011 campaign, adding the Grade III Violet at Monmouth and the Grade III Athenia at Belmont to her Hillsborough triumph. She began 2012 with a fifth-place finish in the Grade III Suwanee River at Gulfstream.
The Clement barn heads the nominations list for the Hillsborough with four horses. Besides Denomination, they include Ireland-bred Group III winner Future Generation; Great Britain-bred Federation; and Kentucky-bred Race to Urga.
Top Canadian trainer Roger Attfield has nominated a pair of 4-year-old Smart Strike fillies from the Stronach Stables barn, Grade III winner Smart Sting and Smart Penny. Also nominated to the Hillsborough from the barn of Tampa Bay Downs trainer Shirley Girten-Drake is Hooh Why, a 6-year-old who won the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream on Jan. 28. Another local conditioner, Greg Griffith, has nominated Grade III winner Cherokee Queen.
The Stonewall Farm Ocala Suncoast Stakes nominations list is headed by a pair of Tampa Bay Downs stakes winners, Quick Flip and Salad Girl. Quick Flip, owned by Klaravich Stables, Inc. and W. H. Lawrence and trained by Teresa Pompay, won the Dec. 10 Sandpiper as a 2-year-old. Salad Girl, owned by Joel Kligman and trained by Edward Plesa, Jr., captured the Jan. 14 Gasparilla in her sophomore opener.
Kathleen O’Connell, who trains 2011 Tampa Bay Derby winner Watch Me Go, has nominated three fillies to the Stonewall Farm Ocala Suncoast. Two are for Gilbert G. Campbell, the owner of Watch Me Go: K Girl’s Dream, who broke her maiden at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 10, and West Coast Lady, who won her career debut at Calder as a 2-year-old on Oct. 23. Both are by West Acre, the sire of Watch Me Go.
O’Connell’s other nominee is Lady Samuri, a New York-bred owned by the Tommy Roberts Racing Stable LLC.
A pair of stakes-placed fillies worthy of mention are also among the nominees. Force de la Nature, owned by Windmill Manor Farm and trained by Kenneally, finished third at Saratoga last July in the Grade III Schuylerville.
Ciguaraya finished third in the Gasparilla Stakes. She is owned by Off The Hook LLC And Doble Jak Investment LLC and trained by Gilberto Zerpa.
Trainers Jamie Ness won three races on Sunday’s card, raising his total for the meet to 48 victories. All three are owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds. Most notable was the 7-year-old Illinois-bred mare Kitty City, who improved to 5-for-5 at Tampa Bay Downs this season with her victory in the 10th race, an allowance/optional $16,000 claiming event, by two lengths from My Place Anytime.
Kitty City’s time for the 5 ½ furlongs was 1:03.74, only .19 seconds off the 12-year-old track record held by Schmoopy.
Leandro Goncalves rode all three Ness winners. Goncalves leads the track’s jockey standings with 65 victories and has won at least one race on 13 consecutive Tampa Bay Downs cards. The Ness-Goncalves duo also scored in the second race with 4-year-old filly Tribal Mistress and the sixth with 6-year-old gelding Bear Always.
Trainer Jorge Navarro won two races, first saddling 6-year-old gelding Pot of Gold to win the third race for owner Blue Top Holding Stables with Luis Garcia in the irons. Navarro and Blue Top Holding teamed up again in the eighth with 3-year-old filly Alison’s Wyn, ridden to victory by Angel Moreno.
Jockeys Rosemary Homeister Jr. and Luis Garcia each rode two winners Sunday.
Live racing resumes Wednesday with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.
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