FESTIVAL DAY NOMINEES INCLUDE NYQUIST, BRODY’S CAUSE, TEPIN

by Mike Henry

Two of the top four 3-year-olds on the Daily Racing Form’s “Derby Watch” chart, No. 2 Nyquist and No. 4 Brody’s Cause, are among the 46 nominees for the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, which heads up the richest afternoon in Tampa Bay Downs history on Festival Day, March 12.

Dale Romans, the trainer of Brody’s Cause, has expressed his desire to begin the colt’s sophomore campaign in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for numerous weeks. The son of Giant’s Causeway, which won the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 3 before finishing third in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Oct. 31 – behind Nyquist and Swipe – breezed five furlongs this morning at Gulfstream Park in a snappy 1:00.73.

The connections of the unbeaten (6-for-6), multiple-Grade I winner Nyquist, owner Reddam Racing and trainer Doug O’Neill, are believed to be leaning toward the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 2 for the colt’s next start, but nothing has been decided.

The nomination list also includes the winner of the Feb. 13 Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, Destin, from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, who won last year’s Tampa Bay Derby with Carpe Diem. In addition to the Twin Creeks Racing Stables colt, Pletcher has nominated 11 other 3-year-olds to the race.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, which offers 50, 20, 10 and 5 qualifying points to the first four finishers toward eligibility for the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 7 at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

The 36th edition of the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby will be the centerpiece of a program that includes the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, also on the turf; and the $100,000 Challenger Stakes for older horses on the main track.

The top nominee for the mile-and-an-eighth Hillsborough is the exceptional 5-year-old mare Tepin, the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile and Eclipse Champion Grass Female which wowed a Tampa Bay Downs throng in her 2016 debut on Feb. 13 with her dominant Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes victory for owner Robert Masterson and trainer Mark Casse.

The Hillsborough Stakes, which has been elevated to Grade II status and had its purse raised $50,000 for its 18th renewal, closed with 42 nominations. Among them is Tepin’s stablemate Lexie Lou, both trained by Casse; Grade I winner Ball Dancing, trained by Chad Brown, whose 2012 and 2015 Hillsborough winners, Zagora and Stephanie’s Kitten, went on to Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf victories; Grade I winner Photo Call, trained by Pletcher; and the Ireland-bred mare Carla Bianca from the barn of Christophe Clement.

The mile-and-a-sixteenth Florida Oaks, first run in 1984, has a rich history, having produced a pair of Kentucky Oaks winners – Luv Me Luv Me Not in 1992 and Secret Status in 2000 – when the Oldsmar event was run on the main dirt track. It was moved to the turf course in 2011 and regained its graded status in 2013.

Among the 57 sophomore fillies nominated to the Florida Oaks are the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, Catch a Glimpse; Grade III winners Family Meeting, Gamble’s Ghost and Harmonize; Grade II-placed Thrilled; and the 1-2 finishers in the Suncoast Stakes on the main track here on Feb. 13, Weep No More and Valueable Charmer.

The mile-and-a-sixteenth Challenger also has a distinguished list of past winners headed by Fort Larned, which used his 2012 triumph as a springboard to a victory in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. It has attracted 29 nominees, including last year’s winner, 5-year-old General a Rod, Grade II winners Upstart and Madefromlucky and the classy 5-year-old Street Sense offspring, Financial Modeling.

But it is the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby that will attract the lion’s share of the interest. In the case of Brody’s Cause, he could wind up following the same path to Louisville as 2007 winner Street Sense, the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion which won the Tampa Bay Derby and finished second in the Toyota Blue Grass before his victory in the Run for the Roses.

Street Sense and 2010 third-place Tampa Bay Derby finisher Super Saver are the only horses to compete here before winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. Extreme hunch players should note that a colt with the same initials, Saturday Shockwave, is among the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby nominees; although still a maiden, he is by Any Given Saturday, which was nosed out by Street Sense in the thrilling 2007 Oldsmar race.

Other highly-ranked Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands candidates nominated to the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby include Greenpointcrusader, winner of the Grade I Champagne as a 2-year-old and second in last month’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes; Shagaf, a promising son of Bernardini which is 2-for-2; and Zulu and Awesome Banner, second and fifth, respectively, in Saturday’s Grade II Fountain of Youth; and Economic Model, second to Awesome Banner in the Grade II Swale Stakes.

The Festival Day experience kicks off in earnest on Monday, March 7 with the 24th annual “Hearts Reaching Out” golf tournament and fundraiser, conducted by The Race Track Chaplaincy of America (RTCA) – Tampa Bay Downs Division. The event, which is open to the public, supports the continued work of the chaplaincy.

The tournament, which has a four-person scramble format, will begin at 11 a.m. at East Lake Woodlands Country Club in Oldsmar. A dinner, awards ceremony and live and silent auctions will be held beneath the pavilion tent at Tampa Bay Downs afterward, with the dinner getting underway at 5 p.m. The cost is $100 for the tournament, dinner and auction, $20 to attend the dinner and auction only.

The chaplaincy ministers to backstretch workers by attending to their spiritual, emotional and physical needs, offering English language and computer-skills courses, Donors are asked to support the Tampa Bay Downs Division of the RTCA in any of the following ways:

•           As a volunteer;

•           By sponsoring a golf hole for $125;

•           By playing in the tournament;

•           By attending the dinner and purchasing an item in the live and/or silent auction;

•           By donating money or an auction item.

For details or to reserve a spot in the tournament, call (813) 494-1870 or (813) 854-1313.

Down the stretch. Jockey Antonio Gallardo won four races, giving him a meeting-high 92 and seven over two days. He swept the early daily double, winning the first race on 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding Substraight for owner Equels Marro Racing II and trainer Harold F. Schultz and returning to the winner’s circle after the second race on 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding Inaswagger for owners Averill Racing, Silver Oak Stable and CCF Racing Stable and trainer Gerald Bennett.

Gallardo won the sixth race on the turf aboard Market Outlook, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Six Column Stables and trained by Ian Wilkes. Market Outlook was claimed from the winning effort for $16,000 by trainer Alison Hassig for new owner Juan Arriagada. The 28-year-old Spaniard scored again in the eighth race on the turf on 3-year-old filly Dame Street for owners Jagger Inc., and Robert D. Bone and trainer Jamie Ness.

The seemingly indefatigable Gallardo leads all jockeys in North America in 2016 with 59 victories. He finished second last year to Javier Castellano, 344-320.

Today’s victory in the third race by 5-year-old gelding Vestibule was the first career triumph for his 32-year-old trainer, Jacob Palacios Molina. Vestibule was owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds and ridden by Ademar Santos. He was claimed from the race for $12,500 by trainer Tim Padilla for new owner Bill Frothinger.

Leading Tampa Bay Downs trainer Bennett sent out two winners. In addition to Inaswagger, he won the fifth race with 3-year-old gelding Roundelay, which is owned by his wife Mary’s Winning Stables and was ridden by Sarah Rook.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Wednesday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The track is open every day except Easter Sunday, March 27 for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.