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February 29, 2020


by Mike Henry
Grade III Sam F. Davis winner has risen to No. 2 on "Derby Dozen" list, looms as probable Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby favorite next Saturday; Jehozacat expected to compete in Grade II Hillsborough; Ultimate 6 wager hit by one lucky New York player for $90,382.10; Hope Again, Native Lion capture Tampa Turf Test races.

Sole Volante, the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner here on Feb. 8, is expected to head the field for next Saturday’s Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, the main event on a stakes-laden afternoon of Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, with the first four finishers awarded points on a 50-20-10-5 scale toward qualifying for a spot in the Run for the Roses starting gate on May 2 at Churchill Downs.

The 3-year-old gelding Sole Volante, whose name is Italian for “Flying Sun,” improved to 3-for-4 with his Sam F. Davis score, punctuated by a powerful move around the far turn and a strong finish that resulted in a 2 ½-length victory from previously unbeaten Independence Hall. Sole Volante is currently ranked No. 2 on racing journalist Steve Haskin’s “Derby Dozen” Presented by Shadwell Farm list of top Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prospects.

Sole Volante will be ridden in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby by Florent Geroux, replacing Sam F. Davis-winning jockey Luca Panici, who suffered a broken collarbone in a fall at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 21.

The 40th edition of the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, run on the main track at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth, is one of five stakes on the Festival Day card, which offers a cool $1-million in stakes purse money.

Three of the four other stakes are also graded: the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes, for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; and the Grade III, $100,000 Challenger Stakes, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track.

The fifth stakes is the $75,000 Columbia, for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf.

Much can change between now and next Saturday, but Tampa Bay Downs Stakes Coordinator Gerry Stanislawzyk and the Racing Office have already established a firm foundation toward presenting an outstanding card that will draw nationwide attention.

Sole Volante’s trainer, Patrick Biancone, said after the Sam F. Davis he was between the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 21 at Fair Grounds for Sole Volante’s next start. After Sole Volante bounced back in strong fettle from the Sam F. Davis, the decision was made to return to the Oldsmar oval.

Sole Volante, who is owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing in partnership with Biancone’s daughter and assistant, Andie Biancone, and Limelight Stables Corp., worked out 7 furlongs Wednesday in 1:23 on the turf at Biancone’s Palm Meadows Training Center base in Boynton Beach on Florida’s east coast, with Geroux flying in from New Orleans for that assignment.

“After he won (the Sam F. Davis), we needed to see how he recovered and then take the best route possible,” Biancone said this morning. “So we chose to come back to Tampa because, No. 1, he likes the track; No. 2, the people in Tampa are very nice; and No. 3, he is in good form and he improved in his last race.”

With Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve qualifying points at stake, there will be no shortage of challengers to the son of Karakontie-Light Blow, by Kingmambo. The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby may have picked up another quality entrant in the Florida-bred colt Chance It, a late scratch from today’s Grade II Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream because of concerns about starting from the No. 12 post.

Chance It, who is owned by Shooting Star Thoroughbreds and trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., is 4-for-6 lifetime with three stakes victories, including the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 4 at Gulfstream in his most recent start.

Other probable Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby runners as of today include the Godolphin homebred Spa City, a son of 2007 Tampa Bay Derby and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, from the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin; Louisiana-bred stakes-winning colt Relentless Dancer, trained by Michael Maker; Maker’s Mo Mosa, a recent maiden special weight winner at Turfway Park; Letmeno, trained by Ian Wilkes; and King Guillermo, from the barn of Juan Carlos Avila.

The list of current probables for the 22nd running of the Hillsborough Stakes is headed by 5-year-old mare Jehozacat, who won the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on the Tampa Bay Downs turf on Feb. 8 in front-running fashion, and Grade I winner and career millionaire Starship Jubilee, a 7-year-old Florida-bred trained by Kevin Attard.

The Lambholm South Endeavour was the second stakes victory of the meeting for Jehozacat, having won the Wayward Lass Stakes on the dirt on Jan. 18. She is a homebred racing for the Lael Stables of Roy and Gretchen Jackson and trained by Arnaud Delacour.

Starship Jubilee has won four of her last five starts, all stakes, including the Grade I E.P. Taylor on Oct. 12 at Woodbine in Toronto. She toyed with five foes in her most recent start, the Grade III Suwanee River on Feb. 8 on the turf at Gulfstream.

Other likely Hillsborough starters include stakes winner Hanalei Moon, from the barn of Mark Casse; Juliana, a multiple Group I-winning mare from Peru, conditioned by Ignacio Correas, IV; Wish Upon, conditioned by John P. Terranova, II; Over Thinking, out of the barn of Victoria Oliver; Get Explicit, trained by Barbara Minshall; Biancone’s 4-year-old filly Kelsey’s Cross; 6-year-old Dynatail, trained by Mike Dini; and La Australiana, trained by Avila.

The 37th running of the Florida Oaks (and 10th edition on the turf course) is expected to feature New York Groove, an undefeated (4-for-4), multiple stakes-winning daughter of 2013 Tampa Bay Derby winner Verrazano, and Walk In Marrakesh, second last September in the Grade I Natalma Stakes at Woodbine.

New York Groove is owned by Commonwealth New Era Racing and trained by Michael Trombetta. Walk In Marrakesh is owned by Merriebelle Stable and trained by Correas.

Other probable starters include stakes winner Micheline, from the barn of Michael Stidham; Grade II-placed Blame Debbie, trained by H. Graham Motion; Secure Connection, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III; Outburst, trained by Eddie Kenneally; Correctness, a Lael Stables-owned filly trained by Delacour; How Ironic, trained by Oliver; Ivyetsu, from the barn of George “Rusty” Arnold, II; and Mirabell Mei, trained by Terranova.

The Challenger Stakes is a graded event for the first time in its 29-year-history, and one of the past winners responsible for that grading, 8-year-old gelding War Story, is expected to try to duplicate his 2018 victory.

Owned by Imaginary Stables and Glenn Ellis and trained by Elizabeth Dobles, War Story has earned more than $3.2-million in his remarkable career, which includes three graded-stakes victories and a fourth-place finish in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Another outstanding Challenger probable is 5-year-old gelding Admiralty Pier, who won the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes here on the turf on Feb. 8. The son of English Channel is trained by Minshall.

Trainer Todd Pletcher’s 4-year-old colt King for a Day, a two-time stakes winner who has been off since last July, is also being pointed toward the Challenger. Others giving strong consideration to the race are multiple stakes-winning Florida-bred gelding Noble Drama, from the barn of David Fawkes; Argentine-bred, Group 3-winning 5-year-old Sandino Ruler, trained by Correas; 6-year-old stakes winner Big Dollar Bill, trained by Wilkes; Prompt, trained by Bill Mott; and Grade II-placed Trophy Chaser, trained by Avila.

The proverbial elephant in the room looming above the 14th edition of the Columbia Stakes is the status of unbeaten nominee and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Structor, with trainer Chad Brown yet to commit to competing.

The Columbia could mark the return to Tampa Bay Downs of 3-year-old colt Zaino Boyz, an impressive winner of the 6-furlong Inaugural Stakes on dirt on Dec. 7. Owned by Zaino Ventures, Inc., he is trained by Bobby Raymond.

Delacour could have two starters in the race: Commence, a homebred racing for Stella F. Thayer, and Chapalu, who won the Grade III Grey Stakes last fall on the all-weather track at Woodbine but faded to seventh in the Sam F. Davis after prompting the early pace.

Other Columbia possibles include Stidham’s stakes-winning colt Doc Boy; Glorious Tribute, from the barn of Minshall; trainer Christophe Clement’s colt Bitcoin Passion; Mr. Kringle, trained by Terranova; gelding Summer Assault, trained by Michele Boyce; and Florida-bred Me and Mr. C, from the barn of Ned Allard.

Around the oval. One bettor at the Nassau-Suffolk OTB hub in New York hit today’s Ultimate 6 wager on races 5-through-10, collecting a cool $90,382.10. The winning combination was 6-4-8-3-11-9. The Ultimate 6 pool starts from scratch Sunday.

 Dylan Fazio’s 4-year-old gelding Hope Again found the mile-and-an-eighth distance of the third leg of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series to his liking today, prevailing in a three-horse photo finish to win the Males Division, contested as the eighth race.

Bourbon Extension finished second, a nose behind the winner, with Onarock third. Samy Camacho rode Hope Again, who is trained by Jose H. Delgado. The victory was Hope Again’s third at the current meeting and seventh in 14 career starts.

The winner’s time was 1:48.83. He paid $5.60 as the betting favorite in the nine-horse field.

The Fillies and Mares Division, run as the sixth race, was won by 5-year-old mare Native Lion, owned by Jeremiah Stables, Anthony Granitz and Timothy Clary and trained by Granitz. Daniel Centeno was the winning jockey.

The Indiana-bred improved to 4-for-15 with the victory, finishing a length-and-a-half ahead of Stormy D. Colonels Daughter, who won an earlier leg of the Tampa Turf Test on Jan. 25, finished third in the 10-horse field.

Native Lion paid $16.40 to win after racing the 9 furlongs in 1:49.77.

Camacho also won the seventh race with Candy for All, a 4-year-old filly owned by Paradise Farms Corp. and trained by Derek Ryan.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:46 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs races each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 3, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 12, when the track is closed.

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