Classic Causeway, an impressive winner of the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 12, heads the nominations for the 42nd running of the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for 3-year-olds on March 12.
The Tampa Bay Downs showcase, contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track, is part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series” of races used to determine the 20-horse field for the Run for the Roses, scheduled for May 7 at Churchill Downs. The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby awards qualifying points to the first four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
Four other stakes are scheduled on the March 12 Festival Day card, three graded, with total stakes purse money of $1-million.
Included are 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.
Classic Causeway, a Kentucky-bred colt who is owned by Kentucky West Racing LLC and Clarke M. Cooper and trained by Brian Lynch, is sixth in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” standings through Saturday’s prep action with 16 points. He was ridden to victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes by Irad Ortiz, Jr., in a time of 1:42.80 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth, the fifth-fastest running of the race in its 42-year history.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby a record five times – including three in a row from 2015-2017 – appears to have covered all bases, with 13 nominees. That contingent includes Grade II winner Mo Donegal, owned by Donegal Racing; Grade III winner Major General, owned by WinStar Farm and Siena Farm; the promising Emmanuel, who won an allowance/optional claiming race here going a mile-and-40-yards on Jan. 30 in his 3-year-old debut for WinStar Farm and Siena Farm; and Grade III turf winner Grand Sonata.
The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby nominations include New York-bred colt Shipsational, who picked up four points for his Sam F. Davis Stakes runner-up finish. Shipsational, who has been training at Tampa Bay Downs since December, is owned by Iris Smith Stable, LLC and trained by Edward Barker.
Besides Classic Causeway, five other horses who are among the current top 20 on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points list are nominated to the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. That group includes Smile Happy, who is third in the standings with 30 points but is ranked first or second on many experts’ list of top Kentucky Derby contenders. Ken McPeek trains the Grade II-winning colt for owner Lucky Seven Stable.
The other Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby nominees among the top 20 are No. 10 Mo Donegal; No. 11 Rattle N Roll, a Grade I winner owned by Lucky Seven Stable and trained by McPeek; No. 14 Major General; and No. 15 Dash Attack, owned by Catalyst Stable, Magdalena Racing, Kevin J. Pollard and Patty Slevin and trained by McPeek.
The top five finishers from the Sam F. Davis are nominated, including third-place finisher Volcanic and fifth-place finisher Golden Glider, both trained by Mark Casse, and fourth-place finisher Strike Hard, trained by Matthew J. Williams.
The nominations for the Grade II Hillsborough Stakes, first run in 1999, are headed by local favorite Bleecker Street, who extended her perfect record to 4-for-4 with an explosive stretch burst under jockey Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr., in the Grade III Endeavour Stakes on Feb. 5. The 4-year-old filly is owned by Peter M. Brant and trained by Chad Brown.
Also among the Hillsborough nominees are the Endeavour runner-up Lady Speightspeare, a 4-year-old filly owned by Charles Fipke and trained by Roger Attfield, and Grade II-winning 4-year-old Gift List, trained by Brian Lynch for owner Amerman Racing.
The Grade III Florida Oaks, which was moved from the main track to the turf course for the 2011 edition, has a rich history since its inception in 1984, with two winners of the race going on to capture the Kentucky Oaks: Luv Me Luv Me Not in 1992 and Secret Status in 2000.
The nominations include French-bred Ouraika, an H. Graham Motion-trainee who won the Grade III Sweet Life Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 12 in her most recent start; Grade II-placed stakes winner Diamond Wow, trained by Patrick Biancone; Grade III winner Mrs. Barbara, from the barn of Mark Casse; and Grade III winner Opalina, trained by Roderick R. Rodriguez.
The Grade III Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes nominations include 6-year-old horse Capocostello, a multiple-Grade I winner in Panama who finished fourth in his U.S. debut on Jan. 15 in an allowance/optional claiming race at Gulfstream. Capocostello is trained by Fausto Gutierrez.
Among Todd Pletcher’s nominees to the Michelob Ultra Challenger are multiple graded-stakes winning 6-year-old gelding Fearless; 4-year-old colt Promise Keeper, a Grade III winner; stakes winner Dynamic One, who finished second in last year’s Grade II Wood Memorial; and the impressive Chilean-bred 5-year-old First Constitution.
Last year’s Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby runner-up and third-place Sam F. Davis finisher Hidden Stash was nominated by trainer Victoria Oliver for owner BBN Racing.
The Columbia Stakes nominees include trainer Michael Maker’s Grade II-placed Stolen Base and Pletcher’s Grade III-placed Royal Spirit, along with Lynch’s multiple-stakes winner Red Danger. Casse has nominated two nice-looking colts in Grade III winner Coinage and Grade II-placed Credibility.
Around the oval. Fernando De La Cruz and Daniel Centeno each rode two winners today. De La Cruz scored in the first race on Mizzen Air, an 8-year-old mare owned by Zeppes Stable and trained by Dennis Ward. Mizzen Air was claimed from the race for $6,250 by trainer Benny Feliciano for new owner MCR Stable.
De La Cruz also won the fourth race aboard Magical Warrior, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Gilberto Martinez and trained by Anthony Granitz. Magical Warrior was claimed for $20,000 by Gerald Bennett for the trainer’s own Winning Stables.
Centeno won the sixth race on Charge It Jenn, a 6-year-old mare owned and trained by Bernell Rhone. Centeno added the ninth race on the turf with Dawn, a 3-year-old filly owned by Peter E. Blum and trained by Arnaud Delacour.
Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:15 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 17, when the track is closed.
Otherwise, the Oldsmar oval 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.