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Published Mar 3, 2024
by Mike Henry
Antonio Gallardo goes 3-for-3

When it comes to handicapping major races, speed figures carry more weight than ever, even if the formulas for determining the numbers can be more difficult to grasp than the Pythagorean theorem.

But with the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve rapidly approaching, the connections of 3-year-old prospects are more concerned with picking up qualifying points than what the experts are saying about their horses.

Jose Francisco D’Angelo, the trainer of Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner No More Time, would enjoy changing the minds of critics who pointed out the Iowa-bred colt’s supposed shortcomings after his victory here on Feb. 10. The colt is expected to get the chance to earn more respect in Saturday’s 44th edition of the Grade III, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, the centerpiece of the Festival Day card at Tampa Bay Downs.

“I think he is going to get better. He is still improving and he knows the track there, which is a big advantage for him,” D’Angelo said earlier today.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby will be run on the main track at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth. No More Time passed that distance challenge with flying colors last month, posting a Sam F. Davis time of 1:43.26, .82 seconds off Flameaway’s 2018 stakes record.

No More Time turned in a scintillating half-mile breeze time of 47.95 seconds Saturday at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach under exercise rider Wilnell Mercado, the fastest of 27 recorded workouts at the distance.

“It was very similar to his workout (a week before) the Sam F. Davis, and his gallop-out was amazing,” D’Angelo said. “He’s a horse who doesn’t need too much anyway because he’s not too big. He was very nervous and green when I started with him, but he’s more focused now and more mature. I think he’s perfect to go for longer distances.”

Whether he gets that opportunity in bigger races could depend to a large extent on how he performs Saturday. D’Angelo said he and the partners in owner Morplay Racing – Orlando resident Rich Mendez, his son Josh and Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo – have decided to switch jockeys from Paco Lopez to Javier Castellano, since Lopez is committed to ride trainer Joseph Orseno’s unbeaten (3-for-3) Grade III Holy Bull Stakes winner Hades moving forward.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is one of five stakes, four of them graded, on a Festival Day card offering $1-million in stakes purse money. The winner of the race will earn 50 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying points, stamping his ticket to the May 4 classic.

The runner-up earns 25 points, with the next three finishers picking up 15, 10 and 5, respectively. The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby has produced two winners of the Run for the Roses: Street Sense, who won both races in 2007, and Super Saver, who finished third in Oldsmar’s premier race before his Kentucky Derby victory.

The remaining stakes on the Festival Day 44 card include 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 course; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; the Grade III, $100,000 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes, for horses 4-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.

In the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher – who sent out last year’s winner, Tapit Trice, for his record sixth victory in the race – is expected to start Heartened, who broke his maiden on the Sam F. Davis undercard in impressive fashion under jockey Jose Ortiz.

Trainer Chad Brown could enter as many as three sophomores in the race, with the Klaravich Stables, Inc.-owned Domestic Product looking most dangerous based on his second-place finish to Hades in the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream Park.

Brown will likely have the top betting favorites for the Hillsborough in 5-year-old mare Marketsegmentation, a Grade I winner, and Fluffy Socks, a 6-year-old who never runs a bad race and captured the Grade II Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile

Brown has sent out a record six Hillsborough winners, including Shantisara last year and Bleecker Street in 2022.

Other probable Hillsborough starters include Aspen Grove, a Grade I-winning 4-year-old filly trained by Jack Sisterson; Grade III-winning 5-year-old Sparkle Blue, from the barn of H. Graham Motion; Grade III-winning 5-year-old Star Fortress, trained by Cherie DeVaux; and stakes-placed Frosty O Toole, a 4-year-old trained by Mike Dini.

The Florida Oaks, which has sent a pair of winners to greater glory in the Kentucky Oaks – Luv Me Luv Me Not in 1992 and Secret Status in 2000 – should see at least eight sophomores face the starter. Among the top probable contenders is trainer Brendan Walsh’s Austere, who won the Global Tote Juvenile Fillies Stakes in September at Kentucky Downs and was a good fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita, beaten only two lengths by winner Hard to Justify.

Other Florida Oaks probables include trainer Dale Romans’ Grade II-placed Pharoah’s Wine; Grade III-placed Style Points, from the barn of Christophe Clement; Witwatersrand, a Grade III-winning 2-year-old last year in Canada for trainer Mark Casse; Dancing N Dixie, another Casse-trained stakes winner; trainer Bill Mott’s stakes-placed Waskesiu; and A Primera Vista, who has won both of her grass starts for owner-trainer Kerri Raven.

The Michelob Ultra Challenger could see the return of Skippylongstocking to Tampa Bay Downs. The 5-year-old, who won last year’s renewal, has amassed almost $1.6-million in career earnings while capturing four graded stakes and finishing third in the 2022 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and last year’s Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Saffie A. Joseph, Jr., trains Skippylongstocking for owner Daniel Alonso.

Other likely Michelob Ultra Challenger starters include Pletcher’s 6-year-old Grade II winner Dynamic One, who finished third in the 2022 Michelob Ultra Challenger; 5-year-old gelding Dash Attack, from the barn of trainer Ken McPeek; Sherlock’s Jewel, a 4-year-old gelding on the improve for trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III; and Mbagnick, a 5-year-old Group I winner from Chile trained by Amador Merei Sanchez.

In the Columbia Stakes, D’Angelo plans to start his colt Full Nelson, a $35,000 claim last September who has won three consecutive starts, including his last two on the Oldsmar turf course.

Other expected Columbia starters include trainer Barbara Minshall’s Two Ghosts, who won the Grade III Grey Stakes in November at Woodbine in Toronto; Tok Tok, a stakes-winning colt trained by Motion; Move to Gold, a well-bred Chad Brown-trained colt who won the Awad Stakes at Belmont At Aqueduct on Oct. 28 in his second career start; and In a Jam, who has won his last two starts for Casse.

The first race Saturday should start around noon, with the gates opening at 10 a.m. Admission is $15 and each patron will receive a “Mystery Mutuel Voucher” worth between $5-$1,000.

Around the oval. In today’s featured sixth race, the $54,000 Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding Passage of Lines overtook Sir Saffer in the stretch and pulled away to a 2 ¼-length victory. Antonio Gallardo rode Passage of Lines, who is owned by Troy Johnson and Jagger Inc. and trained by Jamie Ness.

That was one of three victories on the card from three starters for Gallardo, who added the seventh race aboard Rough and Rowdy, a 4-year-old gelding owned by John Wray Hammond and trained by Kelsey Danner. Gallardo completed his hat trick in the ninth and final race with Charlotte the Brit, an 8-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Gumpster Stable and trained by Darien Rodriguez.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule and is open every day except Easter Sunday, March 31 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.


Antonio Gallardo goes 3-for-3

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