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February 25, 2018


by Mike Henry
The Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, a "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points race, has attracted 52 3-year-old nominees, a number of which have designs on making it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Tampa Bay Downs’ March 10 Festival Day program, headlined by the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-olds and offering $1-million in total stakes purses, has attracted 192 nominations, Stakes Coordinator Gerry Stanislawzyk announced today.

The Oldsmar oval will soon find itself in the center of Triple Crown fever, with top 3-year-olds invading for the 38th edition of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” prep race. This year’s Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, to be run at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main dirt track, has drawn 52 nominations, including 13 trained by Todd Pletcher, who has sent out the last three winners of the race.

The winner earns 50 points toward qualifying for the May 5 Run for the Roses, with the next three finishers earning 20, 10 and 5 points.

“We had a successful Festival Preview Day program on Feb. 10, and March 10 shapes up to be even more exciting,” said Peter Berube, the track’s Vice President-General Manager.

“Running in the Kentucky Derby (Presented by Woodford Reserve) is the No. 1 objective of all horsemen fortunate to have that quality of 3-year-old, and many outstanding horsemen have used the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby as a springboard to Louisville in recent years. Meanwhile, our other Festival Day stakes keep growing in stature,” Berube added.

Two graded turf stakes for females are slated, with the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-an-eighth attracting 29 nominations and the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth drawing 39.

Also scheduled 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.

The Challenger has drawn 27 nominations, while 45 sophomores nominated to the Columbia.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, which in its rich history has produced two Kentucky Derby winners in Street Sense and Super Saver and last year’s Belmont Stakes presented by NYRABets winner, Tapwrit, could once again have major implications for this year’s Triple Crown season.

Heading the list of nominees are Audible, a Pletcher trainee who won the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream, and Untamed Domain, trainer H. Graham Motion’s colt who won the Grade II Summer Stakes at Woodbine in September as a 2-year-old and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on Nov. 3 at Del Mar.

Also nominated are Flameaway, who won the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes in front-running fashion here on Feb. 10, and the third and fourth-place finishers in that race, the Pletcher-trained Vino Rosso and Dale Romans’ Hollywood Star.

Flameaway – owned by John C. Oxley and trained by Mark Casse, who teamed to win the 2012 Tampa Bay Derby with Prospective – is 5-for-7 lifetime, including a victory in last fall’s Grade III Dixiana Bourbon at Keeneland.

Additional top nominees for the showcase include trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s multiple graded-stakes winner Avery Island, a son of Street Sense whose biggest victory came as a 2-year-old in the Grade II Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct; Enticed, another McLaughlin trainee who won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes as a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs; the Jason Servis-trained World of Trouble, who romped in the Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 20; and Magnum Moon, Pletcher’s impressive allowance winner here on Feb. 15.

One filly is among the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby nominees: Heavenhasmynikki, owned by Loooch Racing Stables and trained by Anthony Quartarolo.

The Hillsborough has drawn a strong group of distaffers, including three Grade I stakes winners. That group consists of trainer Ken McPeek’s 4-year-old filly Daddys Lil Darling, winner of the Grade I American Oaks in December at Santa Anita; La Coronel, Casse’s 4-year-old who won the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes presented by Lane’s End at Keeneland and was second to Dona Bruja last month here in the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour; and Off Limits, a 6-year-old trained by Chad Brown who won the Grade I Matriarch at Del Mar in November.

Other leading Hillsborough nominees include multiple graded-stakes winning 5-year-old mare Hawksmoor, trained by Arnaud Delacour; Lovely Bernadette, a 4-year-old Grade II winner trained by James DiVito; Brown’s Grade III-winning 5-year-old, Elysea’s World, and his 6-year-old Four Star Crook, also a Grade III winner; multiple graded-stakes winner Proctor’s Ledge, a 4-year-old trained by Brendan Walsh; Tricky Escape, a 5-year-old trained by Lynn Ashby who won the Grade III Cardinal Handicap at Churchill last November; and trainer Keith Nations’ 5-year-old Martini Glass, who won the Grade III Royal Delta Stakes on Monday at Gulfstream.

Local fans have closely followed the exploits of Florida Oaks nominee Almond Roca, whose 3-for-5 lifetime mark includes two stakes victories at the Oldsmar oval, in the Sandpiper on Dec. 16 as a 2-year-old and in the Gasparilla in January. She is trained by H. Graham Motion.

Other intriguing Florida Oaks nominees include trainer Christophe Clement’s Best Performance, who finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November at Del Mar; Grade III-placed Salsa Bella, trained by Chad Brown; and Delacour’s graded stakes-placed Layla Noor.

The entire list of Festival Day nominees can be accessed by going to on the Internet, going to Horsemen along the top of the page, then dropping down and clicking on Stakes Nominations and Tampa Bay Downs.

Around the oval. Daniel Centeno rode two winners today, giving him five over the weekend. He won the fifth race on the turf on 4-year-old gelding Tolstoy, penning the victory for owner Thomas A. Morrison and trainer Darrin Miller.

Centeno added the ninth and final race on the grass aboard Skradin, a 6-year-old Argentine-bred mare bred and owned by La Providencia and trained by Arnaud Delacour.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:23 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve Weekend, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 1, when the track is closed, and Wednesday, May 2.

Otherwise, the track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.