Defending race champion Go Around and Grade I winner World Approval are set to square off in the $100,000 EG Vodka Turf Classic on Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs, highlighting a series of six races comprising the 15th annual Florida Cup for registered Florida-breds.
The EG Vodka Turf Classic has drawn a field of seven horses 4-years-old-and-upward prepared to race a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf course. It is the fourth race on a 12-race card beginning at 12:15 p.m.
Go Around, a 5-year-old horse bred and owned by Vegso Racing Stable, won the 2016 event (then known as the Tampa Turf Classic) by a neck from Fundamental. The William Mott-trained runner managed a second-place finish in the Brooks Fields Stakes on Aug. 27 at Canterbury Park and was fourth in his most recent start, the Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes on Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park.
Jose Lezcano has been named to ride Go Around.
The 5-year-old gelding World Approval is also a past Florida Cup winner, capturing the Sophomore Turf Stakes in 2015. He went on to win the Grade III American Derby at Arlington and the Grade III Saranac Stakes at Saratoga that summer, setting the stage for bigger things during his 4-year-old campaign.
World Approval won the Grade I United Nations Stakes last July at Monmouth Park and finished second and third in two other Grade I stakes. He will be making his first start since October. Bred by Live Oak Stud, owned by Live Oak Plantation and trained by Mark Casse, World Approval will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.
Five other Florida Cup races, each worth $100,000, will be contested. The cornucopia of stakes offerings begins with the second race, the $100,000 Hilton Garden Inn Sprint for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a distance of six furlongs on the main dirt track.
The six-horse field is headed by 4-year-old colt Tiger Blood, who won the $100,000 Pelican Stakes here on Feb. 18. Tiger Blood is owned by MK Stables and trained by Darien Rodriguez and will be ridden by Pablo Morales.
The third Florida Cup race, the $100,000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, is a seven-furlong event for 3-year-olds. It is the fifth race on the card. Seven potential-laden colts and geldings will face the starter, headed by the Ronald Spatz-trained Mo Cash, winner of last month’s American Fabius Stakes at Gulfstream.
Rounding out the Florida Cup schedule are the eighth race, the $100,000 14 Hands Winery Sophomore Turf for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth; the ninth, the $100,000 Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies at seven furlongs on the main track; and the 10th, the $100,000 Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf for fillies and mares at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
The eight-horse 14 Hands Winery Sophomore Turf field is headed by Squadron, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trained by Todd Pletcher. Reigning Eclipse Award-champion jockey Javier Castellano has been named to ride.
R Angel Katelyn, a 3-year-old filly trained by leading Tampa Bay Downs conditioner Gerald Bennett, tops the nine entrants for the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies. Owned by Averill Racing, CCF Racing Stable and K Lauren Racing, R Angel Katelyn will be ridden by Edwin Gonzalez.
Eight horses are entered in the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, including the 2015 winner, now-6-year-old Evidently. She is a homebred racing for Lambholm Stable and trained by Roy Lerman. Evidently won the Grade III Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct in November and finished third in this year’s Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Jesus Castanon is the jockey.
Among her challengers is 5-year-old Quality Rocks, who won the 2015 Grade III Florida Oaks over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course. Lezcano, her regular pilot, will be aboard.
Tampa Bay Downs will conduct full cards of Thoroughbred racing Friday and Saturday leading to the Florida Cup. The track is open every day except Easter Sunday, April 16 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.