Each of the four likely Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands starters with Tampa Bay Downs form worked out this week at Churchill Downs, with Always Dreaming, Tapwrit and State of Honor hitting the track early this morning.
Tampa Bay Downs will simulcast the 143rd running of the race Saturday, May 6, as well as presenting a full card of Thoroughbred action.
Always Dreaming turned in the most impressive move among the Oldsmar graduates, breezing five furlongs in 59 3/5 seconds, the fastest of 35 published works at the distance, with regular rider John Velazquez aboard.
“It was a good solid work throughout, and then an exceptional gallop out,” trainer Todd Pletcher told bloodhorse.com afterward. “He was full of run. It was good; it was very good.”
Always Dreaming broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 25 by 11 ½ lengths going a mile-and-40-yards. He won a nine-furlong allowance/optional claiming race on March 4 at Gulfstream by four lengths in his next start, then returned four weeks later to win the Xpressbet Florida Derby by five.
Tapwrit, Pletcher’s charge who won the Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 11, breezed five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 with jockey Jose Ortiz in the saddle. That was the third-fastest workout at the distance. He worked together with Patch, still another Pletcher trainee who finished second in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby.
Tapwrit lost some luster with a dull fifth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass on April 8, but Pletcher was encouraged by today’s move. “I thought it was a particularly good work. He seems to be able to handle this surface better than the one at Keeneland (site of the Blue Grass),” Pletcher said. “Jose never had to ask him or encourage him at any point; he galloped out strongly.”
State of Honor, who finished second in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and third in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 11, breezed four furlongs in 48 4/5 seconds. Julien Leparoux rode State of Honor in both of his Oldsmar starts, as well as the Florida Derby, in which he finished second. But with Leparoux committed to trainer Mark Casse’s 2016 Eclipse Award 2-Year-Old champ and Arkansas Derby winner, Classic Empire, Casse has enlisted the services of Jose Lezcano for State of Honor.
McCraken is scheduled for his final Kentucky Derby workout for trainer Ian Wilkes on Sunday. The Sam F. Davis winner, who finished third in the Blue Grass in his most recent start, breezed five furlongs Monday in 1:00 3/5 at Churchill Downs with his regular rider, Brian Hernandez, Jr., aboard. Both Wilkes and Hernandez expressed satisfaction with the effort.
Around the oval. Emotion flooded the winner’s circle after today’s eighth race, in which 12-year-old horse Hold On Smokey rallied for an exciting head victory from Good Times Rambles in 56.35 seconds for the five-furlong, $16,000 waiver claiming turf event. Pablo Morales was the jockey.
Bred by owner Joyce Kielty’s Great Luck Farm in Ocala, where he still resides, the venerable stakes winner improved to 21-for-81 in his career. The first-place prize increased his earnings to $473,182.
Kielty, who also trains Hold On Smokey, said she has been receiving feelers from mare owners about breeding him, but she believes he has some good efforts left. One thing is certain: the homebred son of Concorde’s Tune-Lady Lisa, by Princely Pleasure, sent a lot of fans home with smiles – even those who didn’t cash a ticket.
Four-time Oldsmar riding champion jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., has decided he will not ride through the next few weeks to allow his fractured rib to heal before the start of the Presque Isle Downs meeting on May 21. Allen, who was injured in a fall Sunday, will head to the Erie, Pa., track with 3,499 career victories.
Allen is in fourth place in the current Tampa Bay Downs standings with 69 victories.
Edwin Gonzalez took off the remainder of his mounts today after winning the third race aboard 7-year-old gelding Sky Commander for owner HANNEMM and trainer Mandy Ness. Gonzalez, who is second to Daniel Centeno in the jockey standings with 80 victories, bruised his tailbone after being unseated in Wednesday’s eighth race.
Legendary trainer visits Oldsmar oval. Southern California-based trainer Art Sherman made his first visit to Tampa Bay Downs in almost 50 years today. Sherman trained California Chrome, the winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Preakness and a two-time Horse of the Year who earned in excess of $14.7-million.
Sherman was accompanied at the Oldsmar oval by his son, Alan Sherman, and Alan’s girlfriend Nicole Weakley.
Sherman, who won almost 2,000 races as a jockey, rode here in the late 1950s when the track was known as Sunshine Park.
While California Chrome has been retired to stud at Taylor Made Stallions in Nicholasville, Ky., the 79-year-old Sherman shows little sign of slowing. He spent the first part of this week at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training, where he purchased three horses, including an Alternation-Best Practices filly for $260,000 for owner Kaleem Shah.
The Shermans and Weakley dined in the Skye Terrace Restaurant while enjoying the day’s races.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Saturday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:50 p.m. The track will also conduct racing Sunday and throughout the three-day Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands weekend of May 5, 6 and 7.
The final day of the 2016-2017 meeting is Friday, June 30, which is also the first day of the two-day Summer Festival of Racing and Music. The 2017-2018 meeting officially starts on Saturday, July 1.
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.