The 19-1 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner made a strong transition from his 2-year-old season to now, according to trainer Rodolphe Brisset, and possibilities abound.
Rodolphe Brisset noticed a major difference in his Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip when he returned to the trainer’s Fair Grounds base in New Orleans in early January to resume training after a three-week “vacation” at WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky.
“He matured a lot physically and carried more weight. When he got back to Fair Grounds, he wasn’t a 2-year-old anymore – he was a racehorse,” Brisset said this morning. “The transition from 2 to 3 is very important for a Thoroughbred, and I could see by the way he acted that he had grown up.”
Winter weather and a minor hiccup in Quip’s training schedule led to Brisset and WinStar President Elliott Walden pinpointing the 38th annual showcase at Tampa Bay Downs, where Brisset keeps between 4-to-6 horses under the care of assistant Leigh Bentley.
As Quip continued to train to the race, Brisset, a former jockey who exercises his horses in the mornings, grew more encouraged. A week after the colt’s regular jockey, Florent Geroux, worked him 5 furlongs on Feb. 18, Brisset was aboard for a 5-furlong breeze in 59.8 seconds at Fair Grounds that was the fastest of 38 posted works at the distance.
The next day, the trainer loaded Quip on a van headed to Oldsmar, where he galloped for a week before his final 4-furlong workout Monday, a strong move in 48 seconds. “We wanted to get him accustomed to the track, and I guess it was the right thing to do because we won the race,” Brisset said.
Quip did the rest, erasing doubts that had arisen from a seventh-place finish in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs with his 1-length victory from Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Flameaway in 1:44.72 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth.
“I don’t think he was cranked all the way to the bottom, but he was fit enough to run that race and win it,” said the 34-year-old Brisset, who went out on his own last April after working as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott for 11 years.
“We walked him this morning and his legs were good and everything was in good shape. We’ll probably keep him here for a few days” before sending him to Keeneland, Brisset added.
With 50 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points from Saturday’s victory, the son of Distorted Humor-Princess Ash, by Indian Charlie, is all-but-assured a spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses on May 5 at Churchill Downs. Brisset said he will talk to Walden and representatives of Quip’s other owners, China Horse Club International and SF Racing, to determine how best to get to Louisville.
Final preps that might fit Quip’s schedule include the Grade II Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, both on April 7, and the Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on April 14.
Flameaway, who finished a neck ahead of pace-setter World of Trouble, earned 20 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points for his runner-up effort, raising his total to 30 and prompting trainer Mark Casse, who finished fourth in last year’s Kentucky Derby with Classic Empire (the subsequent Preakness runner-up), to think about a return trip to Louisville.
Casse said it’s likely the John C. Oxley-owned colt will show up next in the Toyota Blue Grass.
“I was excited and happy with Flameaway’s performance, and (jockey) Jose (Lezcano) said the farther they go, the better he’ll do. He can go all day,” Casse said. “He got whacked around pretty good at the start and ran a little erratically down the lane, but he was running at the end and that’s what you want.
“Of course we’re looking at the (Kentucky) Derby, but you want him to run well and train well leading up to it. You want to believe he can run and run well, and I think he will prove that he belongs.”
Todd Pletcher, the trainer of fourth-place Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby finisher Vino Rosso, said that colt is likely to go next in the Wood Memorial.
Meanwhile, Tom Albertrani, the trainer of Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks winner Andina Del Sur, said the 3-year-old filly came out of the race fine and that no decision has been reached on her next start.
“Our intentions are maybe trying her on the dirt one day, but I’m glad we got this race out of the way,” Albertrani said Saturday.
As for the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes on the turf, it would be no surprise to see winner Fourstar Crook return at the Grade I level after turning back runner-up Proctor’s Ledge and a trio of Grade I winners: La Coronel, Daddys Lil Darling and her Chad Brown-trained stablemate, Off Limits.
Fourstar Crook, who finished third last October in the Grade I E. P. Taylor at Woodbine, is 10-for-15 in her career.
In the $100,000 Challenger Stakes, 6-year-old gelding War Story achieved a monster 106 Beyer Speed Figure with his dominating five-and-three-quarter length victory. The $2.2-million-plus career earner, trained by Jorge Navarro, will be pointed to the Grade II, $1.2-million Charles Town Classic on April 21.
Gidu won the $75,000 Columbia Stakes on the turf, and the Irish-bred 3-year-old son of Frankel appears to have a bright future on the lawn for trainer Pletcher and owner Zayat Stables after defeating 11 foes with elan.
Florida Cup in two weeks. On Sunday, March 25, Tampa Bay Downs will host its 16th annual celebration of the state’s breeding and racing industries, with six Florida Cup Day stakes races for registered Florida-breds worth a combined $600,000 in purse money.
A total of 140 horses have been nominated to the Florida Cup, including 27 to the $100,000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore for 3-year-olds going a distance of 7 furlongs.
Drawing 25 nominations apiece were the $100,000 DRF Bets Sophomore Turf for 3-year-olds going a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass and the $100,000 Horse Races NOW Sprint for horses 4-years-old-and-upward going six furlongs.
The $100,000 Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward on the turf, drew 24 nominees. There are 20 nominated to the $100,000 Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, a 7-furlong event for 3-year-old females.
The $100,000 EG Vodka Turf Classic, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward, drew 19 nominees.
Around the oval. In the seventh race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, 3-year-old filly R Swift Taylor gave trainer Gerald Bennett an early birthday present, speeding to a neck victory from Final Form in 56.51 seconds for the 5-furlong distance on the turf. History Supreme was another head back in third. Daniel Centeno was the winning jockey.
Bennett, who has won the last two training titles at the Oldsmar oval, turns 74 Monday.
R Swift Taylor, who was making her turf debut, improved to 4-for-5 in her brief career. The Florida-bred daughter of Corfu-National Gallery, by Lido Palace, is owned by Averill Racing and CCF Racing Stable.
Bennett has nominated R Swift Taylor to the Florida Cup Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies.
The veteran conditioner is no stranger to switching horses from the dirt to the turf with outstanding success. Six years ago, his Florida-bred gelding Jr’s Exchange, who still holds the track’s 5-furlong main track record of 56.57 seconds, set a track turf record for the distance (since bettered) of 54.92.
Antonio Gallardo rode two winners today, giving the three-time Tampa Bay Downs riding champion a meet-leading 73 victories. He won the second race on Sealed With a Kiss, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by John C. Terlep and trained by William “Buff” Bradley.
Sealed With a Kiss was claimed from the race by trainer Elliot Sullivan for new owner Bruno Schickedanz.
Gallardo added the third race on Exclusive Zip, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Laura Barrish and trained by Charles Harvatt.
Trainer Bradley also won two races. In addition to Sealed With a Kiss, he sent out ninth-race winner Houseer, whom he bred and owns with Brian Hodson. Willie Martinez was the jockey.
Houseer was claimed from the race by owner-trainer Bill Sienkewicz.
Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 1, when the track is closed.
Otherwise, Tampa Bay Downs 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.