by Mike Henry

Emmanuel, a 4-year-old colt who competed on the Triple Crown trail last spring, is expected to be among the top contenders in the 37th running of the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on Saturday on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Tampa Bay Stakes, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth, is one of two Grade III grass races scheduled on the annual Turf Champions Day card. The other is the Grade III, $175,000 Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares 4-and-upward, also at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth.

Todd Pletcher, who celebrated winning a record eighth Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer on Thursday, trains Emmanuel for owners WinStar Farm and Siena Farm. He finished fourth last March in the Grade II Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes and third in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass before being switched to the turf, winning the Grade II Pennine Ridge at Belmont on June 4.

Emmanuel has been off since being eased in the Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational on Aug. 6.

A full field of 12 older males is possible for the Tampa Bay Stakes, according to Autumn Charley, the Tampa Bay Downs Stakes Coordinator. Included are such established turf performers as Lea Farms’s 5-year-old Winfromwithin, the Tampa Bay Downs course record-holder at a mile on turf (1:33.23), trained by Jorge Delgado; Juddmonte’s Grade III-winning 4-year-old gelding Verbal, trained by Eclipse runner-up Chad Brown; Grade 2-winning millionaire 6-year-old Field Pass, owned by Three Diamonds Farm and trained by Mike Maker; and Mighty Heart, Larry Cordes’s 2020 Queen’s Plate Stakes winner, trained by Patrick County, Jr.

It comes as no surprise that both Pletcher and Brown are likely to also be represented in the 24th edition of the Endeavour Stakes on Saturday. Pletcher’s likely starter is the Argentine-bred 6-year-old mare Scotish Star, who is still looking for her first U.S. stakes victory. She is owned by La Providencia and LNJ Foxwoods.

Brown is expected to send Marketsegmentation, a 4-year-old owned by Klaravich Stables who is 2-for-3 and would be making her first career stakes start. Brown and Klaravich combined to win the 2021 Endeavour with Counterparty Risk, and Brown won last year’s Endeavour with Bleecker Street.

Other expected starters include 5-year-old Oliviaofthedesert, a recent stakes winner owned by Susan Moulton and trained by Wayne Catalano; Panama Red, a 4-year-old Ireland import owned by Lael Stables and trained by Arnaud Delacour; and the improving 4-year-old Surprisingly, owned by Phipps Stable and trained by Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III.

Graded-stakes action will continue the following Saturday, Feb. 11, with the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds, the centerpiece of a Festival Preview Day card that also includes the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

The Sam F. Davis ia a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, awarding Run for the Roses qualifying points to the first four finishers. The Suncoast is a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points race.

Around the oval. Trainer Darien Rodriguez saddled two winners today. He scored in the second race with Charging Aero, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Reitman Stables and ridden by Angel Suarez. Rodriguez added the seventh race on the turf with Hereby, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Michael Schrader and Paul O’Neil and ridden by Samy Camacho.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:28 p.m. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.