McCRAKEN HEADS NTRA SOPHOMORE POLL; TAPWRIT MOVES UP 10 SPOTS

by Mike Henry

Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner McCraken remains atop the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top 3-Year-Old Poll, while Tapwrit vaulted into fifth place after his Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby victory here on Saturday.

Racing journalists and broadcasters select the top 10 on a weekly basis, with points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.

The undefeated (4-for-4) McCraken, who has not raced since establishing a stakes and (then)-track record on Feb. 11 in his Sam F. Davis triumph at Tampa Bay Downs, received 15 first-place votes and a total of 355 points. Second is Grade II Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Gunnevera, with eight first-place votes and 324 points.

Unique Bella, a filly who has won three consecutive graded stakes at Santa Anita, is third with 245 points. She received seven first-place votes, one fewer than Mastery, who is fourth with 230 points. Mastery was pulled up after winning the Grade II San Felipe on Saturday and had surgery Monday to repair a condylar fracture, removing him from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands trail. He is back in the barn of trainer Bob Baffert.

Tapwrit received one first-place vote and has 209 points after romping to a four-and-a-half length victory from State of Honor in the 37th running of the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Tapwrit had been ranked 15th the previous week.

The Todd Pletcher-trainee raced the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance in 1:42.36, the fastest-ever Tampa Bay Derby and .09 seconds faster than McCraken’s time in the Sam F. Davis. McCraken held the Tampa Bay Downs track record before Pletcher’s 5-year-old horse Stanford won the $100,000 Challenger Stakes on Saturday’s Festival Day card in 1:41.75, three races before the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.

Rounding out the top 10 in the NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll are Classic Empire (two first-place votes, 189 points); J Boys Echo (one first-place vote, 128); One Liner (126); Girvin (117); and Practical Joke (105).

Around the oval. Ricardo Feliciano and Wilmer Garcia each rode two winners today. Feliciano kicked things off by capturing the first race on Gabriels Joy, a 5-year-old mare bred and owned by Robert M. Hardie and trained by Julie Belhumeur.

Feliciano also won the sixth race on the first-time starter Fujimo, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Muirfield Farm and Tim Girten and trained by Ron G. Potts.

Garcia won the third race on Little Twitch, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Windstorm Stable and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. Little Twitch was claimed from the race by new owner-trainer Michael A. LeCesse.

Garcia also won the fifth race on the turf on 3-year-old filly Viva Vegas, owned by George Bolton and Peter Leidel and trained by Derek Ryan.

Trainer Rick Creel sent out two winners today. He won the second race with 3-year-old Florida-bred colt Brookside, bred and owned by Janice Creel and ridden by Jorge L. Vargas. Creel won the ninth and final race with Wild Poison, a 3-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by Michael Lee and ridden by Daniel Centeno.

Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Friday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. The track conducts racing each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout April, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 16, when the Oldsmar oval 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.