Trainer Mark Casse says he was baffled by Prospective’s 13th-place finish in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
But he was feeling a lot better about the Kentucky-bred colt’s long-term prospects after his stirring half-length victory from Wildcat Creek in Saturday’s $100,000, seven-furlong Pasco Stakes for 3-year-olds at Tampa Bay Downs.
Luis Contreras rode the winner, who paid $7.20 to win.
“It (the Juvenile) disappointed me. Whenever you see a race like that. … but, I have a little more faith after today,” said Casse, who added the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 4 could be next on Prospective’s agenda.
Despite a flapping piece of white tape from his right hind leg, Prospective – a son of Malibu Moon-Spirited Away, by Awesome Again, owned by John C. Oxley – wore down 9-1 shot Wildcat Creek to win in 1:23.88, .21 seconds off the stakes record. The 19-10 favorite, Adirondack King, also rallied strongly to finish third in the 10-horse field. Burning Time was fourth.
In the $100,000 co-feature, the Gasparilla Stakes at seven furlongs for 3-year-old fillies, the winning and runner-up connections were reversed from the Pasco. Salad Girl – trained by Edward Plesa, Jr. and ridden by Angel Serpa, the connections of Wildcat Creek – outlasted the Casse-trained and Contreras-ridden Delightful Magic, the 4-5 favorite, by a neck.
Salad Girl, a New Jersey homebred for Joel Kligman, ran the distance in 1:24.14, .11 seconds off the stakes record. Ciguaraya rallied for third in the 10-horse field and Venetian Sonata was fourth. Salad Girl paid $18.40.
Prospective, who won the Grade III Grey Stakes at Woodbine in October, endured some early bumping out of the gate, but that didn’t concern Casse or Contreras since he does his best running late. “He did get bothered a little bit, but I wasn’t expecting him to be close, anyway,” Casse said. “So it kind of worked out fine.
“I thought coming off his route races he wouldn’t be able to keep up early, and he didn’t,” Casse said of Prospective, now 3-for-5 lifetime. “I thought it might be déjà vu after the Gasparilla when (Wildcat Creek) was ahead of him, but my horse is bred to run on.”
Contreras barely noticed the early contact out of the gate. “He broke very well and settled down nicely,” Contreras said. “In the turn, I asked him to close on the leaders and he closed very quickly and just swept by them. I really like this horse. The Breeders’ Cup was really disappointing, but I’d like to get back to Churchill with him again.”
John Servis, the trainer of Adirondack King, was pleased with his colt’s effort. “I don’t think the No. 1 post helped,” he said. “She (jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr.) had to steady a little bit going into the turn, but all in all I’m happy with his race. I would have liked to see him win, but I’m not disappointed at all.”
The Gasparilla winner, Salad Girl, made a bold move on the turn and showed good courage through the lane in staving off Delightful Magic. It was the second consecutive stakes victory for Salad Girl, who won the Jersey Juvenile Fillies Stakes Oct. 29 at Monmouth and is 3-for-4 lifetime.
“I was farther back than I hoped to be, so all I could do was take hold and wait,” Serpa said. “When I saw the rail open, I asked her and she responded so good. She went through so fast. Then when she felt that other filly outside her, I rode her hard and she responded again. She is such a nice filly.”
Salad Girl shipped up from her training base at Calder in Miami the morning of the race with Frank Perez, the long-time assistant to Plesa. “I was keeping one eye on her and one eye on my bed, and she handled the trip very well,” Perez said.
“This filly was training very well, so we figured we had to take the shot at this race. The jockey did a great job today. We’ll she how she comes back, but it looked like she came back 100 percent so whatever they decide, I’m ready for her,” Perez said.
Sunday’s 10-race card begins with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. Following Sunday’s program, live racing resumes Wednesday as Tampa Bay Downs begins its regular Wednesday-through-Sunday, five-days-a-week schedule.
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.