Promising 3-year-olds from the barns of such top-level conditioners as Kentucky Derby-winning trainers H. Graham Motion and Todd Pletcher, as well as Mark Casse, Derek Ryan, Edward Plesa Jr. and Wayne Catalano, are among a group of 47 horses nominated to Saturday’s $100,000 Pasco Stakes and $100,000 Gasparilla Stakes for fillies at Tampa Bay Downs.
Entries and post positions will be drawn Wednesday.
The Pasco and Gasparilla, both seven furlongs, are the centerpieces of the track’s Skyway Festival Day, named after the Tampa Bay area’s iconic span. The Jan. 14 races are intend to serve as a bridge connecting the track’s Dec. 10 Cotillion Festival Day Presented by Lambholm South for 2-year-olds with the Feb. 4 Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South, which features the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes and the $150,000 Florida Oaks.
From there, all roads lead to Tampa Bay Downs Festival Day on March 10, when top 3-year-olds contest the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby and the $100,000 Stonewall Farm Ocala Suncoast Stakes.
Motion’s nominee for the Pasco, State of Play, broke in at Saratoga last summer with back-to-back victories on the turf, including a half-length score in the Grade II With Anticipation Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
Pletcher has nominated the intriguing Discreet Dancer to the Pasco. Owned by E. Paul Robsham Stables LLC, Discreet Dancer broke his maiden Dec. 3 at Gulfstream by 9 ¾ lengths, speeding the five-and-a-half furlongs in 1:02.34.
If either or both are entered, they could find themselves running against several sophomores who already have won at the stakes level. They include Casse’s Prospective, a son of Malibu Moon who won the Grade III Grey Stakes as a 2-year-old Oct. 9 at Woodbine and competed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. Owned by John Oxley, Prospective is 2-for-4 lifetime.
Trainer Daniel Pita, who won the Dec. 10 Inaugural Stakes with then-2-year-old Angelofdistinction, has nominated both that Florida-bred gelding and his Florida-bred colt Hello Prince for the Pasco. Hello Prince won the Birdonthewire Stakes on Oct. 1 at Calder in Miami by six lengths.
Other stakes winners nominated to the Pasco include Adirondack King, out of the barn of John Servis; David Fawkes-trained Burning Time, who won the Foolish Pleasure on Sept. 17 at Calder; and For Oby, who won the Jack Price Juvenile on Nov. 12 at Calder for Pedro Maestre.
Neither of Derek Ryan’s nominees – Holy Highway and I’m Not Myself – are stakes winners, but it is worth noting Ryan won the 2009 edition of the Pasco Stakes with Musket Man, who went on to win the Tampa Bay Derby and placed third in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Also not to be overlooked in the Pasco if he enters is the Plesa-trained Wildcat Creek, who was second here in the Inaugural.
Motion has nominated two fillies to the Gasparilla Stakes, Sweet Seventeen and Prateada. Sweet Seventeen, owned by Debby Oxley, won twice as a 2-year-old and finished second in the $150,000 Glorious Song at Woodbine.
Among the other accomplished Gasparilla nominees are the Plesa-trained Salad Girl, winner of the $60,000 Jersey Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 29 at Monmouth; the well-bred Sacristy, a daughter of Pulpit who broke her maiden for Catalano on Nov. 10 at Churchill Downs by 6 ¾ lengths; James DiVito’s Bet to Win, another Pulpit offspring who is 2-for-3; and the Greg Griffith-trained Grand Entry, who won her first three starts before an also-ran effort Dec. 10 in the Sandpiper Stakes.
In Sunday’s $30,000 Endeavour Prep allowance at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf, 6-year-old Florida-bred mare Speak Easy Gal led at every call and had enough in reserve to stave off 3-5 favorite Snow Top Mountain by a long neck in 1:42.25. Speak Easy Gal paid $10.40 to win. She is owned by Farnsworth Stables LLC and trained by Martin Wolfson and was ridden by Luis Garcia.
A claim of foul by Mark Guidry, the jockey on Snow Top Mountain, against the winner for interference was disallowed by the stewards.
Live racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday, with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. There will be a Pick-5 carryover of $7,646.24 and a High-5 rollover of $2,950.85.
The track is open every day for simulcasting, no-limits poker in the Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.