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Bombs Away at Tampa Bay by Gary Roedemeier

Bombs Away at Tampa Bay by Gary Roedemeier

by Gary Roedemeier

Posted on April 14, 2011 at 11:01 AM

(WHAS11) - Sometimes horse racing makes absolutely no sense.

The Tampa Bay Derby set up perfectly for Brethren.

He faced some of the same horses he beat in the Sam F. Davis Stakes over the same track.  Two-year-old champ, Uncle Mo, stayed in Miami. But then, at the top of the stretch, things fell apart.

Brethren was passed by Watch Me Go, a 43 to 1 shot.  Watch Me Go then dueled to the wire and just beat Crimson Knight, an 86 to 1 shot. Brethren, the half brother to Derby winner Super Saver, was struggling like he was running in peanut butter.

On Monday morning, we were left to ponder, what does it all mean? Is Watch Me Go, a Florida bred son of West Acre, a real Derby contender? The horse he beat, Crimson Knight, was coming out of a $16,000 claiming race. And what happened to Brethren? Did he tire on the deep, sandy track at Tampa?

The tendency is to just throw out this race and move on.  But, Tampa Bay Derby horses have run very well in the Kentucky Derby over the past 10 years.  Do you remember Musket Man, the winner at Tampa, who then took the Illinois Derby and finished third at Churchill Downs? It's difficult to just dismiss upset winners at Tampa, especially after they earn $200,000 and qualify for a trip to Kentucky.

About an hour before the bombshell at Tampa, Uncle Mo made his seasonal debut at Gulfstream Park.  HIs job was much easier than a trip to Tampa.

Mo raced through leisurely fractions and then heard the challenge of Rattlesnake Bridge at the top of the stretch and moved out to win by four lengths. It was a hand ride as he finished the mile in 1:36.5 and galloped out nicely. It was probably enough to get him ready for the Wood Memorial or the Florida Derby. But will that set him up for the Kentucky Derby?  I think most of the talk about the 2-year-old champ will be about distance. In short, can he get the mile and a quarter?

And finally, as twilight was fleeting in Kentucky, a Southern California horse ran into the sunshine and became the first possible Derby star at Santa Anita.

Premier Pegasus ran away with the San Felipe Stakes by almost eight lengths and he beat a pretty good group of horses.

The much hyped Jaycito was a badly beaten second, followed by Bench Points, who lost for the first time in five starts.

Comma to the Top was fourth after he grabbed the lead briefly at the top of the stretch but once again showed distance limitations.

Three other horses that had attracted some Derby interest, Jakesam, Albergatti and Runflatout just flat-out quit in the stretch.  When you spit the bit after six furlongs, maybe the Derby will be too far.

Premier Pegasus now becomes the favorite for the Santa Anita Derby and his time for the mile and a sixteenth was 1:41.2. Keep in mind that the track in California is crazy fast, but this was a strong race.

Premier Pegasus is a Fusaichi Pegasus, owned and trained by Myung Kwon Cho.  With Fu Peg on top and a Summer Squall mare as his dam, this horse certainly qualifies as a Derby contender.

And so we find the Derby picture clearer in California, as expected in Miami, but completely crazy in Tampa, which brings us to the Top 20.

What should we do with Brethren and what about these new contenders?

The Derby plot is thicker than ever.


 1. Soldat

After watching the races this past weekend, I like him more than ever.

Soldat has made his reputation on the deep tracks of the east and he'll be ready for any kind of surface, even the slop. If I was Uncle Mo, I would want no part of Soldat right now.  Likely favorite for the Florida Derby.


2. Dialed In

He's number two and he'll likely be second in the stretch of the Florida Derby as he tries to rundown Soldat. He has a remarkable closing kick and he might just get the job done. The recent second place finish in an allowance race was nothing more than a good workout.


3. Uncle Mo

Speaking of workouts, they could have gathered up four horses at the training center and had the kind of field that Uncle Mo faced in the Timely Writer Stakes.

And now there are reports that the Repole-Pletcher team might consider keeping Mo at Gulfstream for the Florida Derby. Whew!  Soldat, Dialed in, To Honor and Serve and more.  Now that would be a prep race.


4. Stay Thirsty.

But wait. Stay Thirsty was supposed to get the Florida Derby call in the Repole barn. Maybe not. If Uncle Mo stays in Florida then Stay Thirsty goes to the Wood and gets to run on the track where he won the Gotham. That might make some sense and certainly gives him a softer spot.


5. Premier Pegasus

A horse can make a jump like this when he hammers a good field of three year olds in California, and he did. We always knew that Premier Pegasus was fast. He had just worked 5 furlongs in: 57 and change. But this proved he could hold the speed around two turns and he showed no signs of slowing down.

Alonso Quinonez is the lucky jockey who landed on a Derby contender.


6. Gourmet Dinner

And what does that leave for a blue collar hard knocker like Gourmet Dinner? The Florida Derby is getting crowded.  Santa Anita has a possible star in the Fu Peg colt. And all Gourmet dinner has is a million dollars in earnings and the ability to consistently hit the board. The question is: Where to demonstrate that ability next?


7. Mucho Macho Man

No indecision for Kathy Ritvo. She's taking her Derby horse back to the Fairgrounds for a shot at the million dollars in the Louisiana Derby on March 26th. Macho Man loved the track but then we thought Brethren loved Tampa.  That million bucks is going to attract some good horses, and some Fairgrounds based trainers are waiting for a chance at the big purse.


8. Archarcharch

This is the week that Arkansas jumps back in the Derby picture, and this Arch colt, who won the Southwest Stakes will be trying to run the table at Oaklawn leading to the Arkansas Derby.  In the Southwest, Archie beat mostly local contenders, but there could be some invaders coming for the Rebel Stakes.

Among the possibles, Bob Baffert's, The Factor and Iroquois Stakes winner, Astrology.


9. J P's Gusto

It will be the second start of the season for this former California resident and I wouldn't be surprised is J P goes off as the favorite in the Rebel. He had a nice second place to Archie in the Southwest and might have needed a race, plus it was his first race over a dirt track since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Just worked six furlongs in 1:12.2  At Oaklawn, that's cookin'.


10. Jaycito

It wouldn't be impossible for Jaycito to turn the tables on Premier Pegasus in the Santa Anita Derby but he has some distance to make up in the next month.

The San Felipe was his first start since the Breeders' Cup and he wasn't making up much ground on the winner. Still, he's a likely Derby starter.


11.  Brethren

I'm going to drop him out of the top ten but I'm not giving up on Brethren.

He still hit the board at Tampa but his race was worse than it will look on the chart. WinStar will probably give him another shot in Arkansas or perhaps the Bluegrass Stakes on Polytrack. Brethren also needs some more graded stakes money to make the Derby field.


12. Santiva

This is another horse, who is likely to return to New Orleans for a chance at a million dollars. Santiva ran second in the Risen Star, so his second start could produce a better result, but it will also be a tougher field. Santiva has a win under his saddle at Churchill Downs, and has "the horse for the course" angle.


13. The Factor

He's fast. He can run almost faster than Bill O'Reilly can talk. But can the horse named for a TV show, stretch his speed to Derby distance or something close to Derby distance. The stretch-out experiment is coming up as soon as Bob Baffert decides on the next race.


14. Watch Me Go

That's exactly what we're going to do. Watch.

Is this a flash in the sand, or a real Derby horse?

You have to include the Tampa Bay Derby winner because he now has $210,000 in graded stakes earnings and that's probably enough to make the starting gate. He should get another start between now and May and that could tell the owners if it's worth the trip.


15. Anthony's Cross

He saw the competition in the San Felipe and took a pass.

So will Anthony's Cross look for a stepping stone race or train up to the Santa Anita Derby?  There's the Spiral Stakes at Turfway and the Sunland Park Derby on the weekend of March 26th.   Its decision time for trainer Eoin Harty.


 16. Positive Response

The winner of the John Battaglia Memorial is now sitting on go, waiting for the Spiral Stakes on the same track. Positive Response liked the Polytrack, but he'll have to win Turfway's big race to move an hour and a half down the road to Churchill Downs. The synthetic turf at Turfway has not been a good Derby predictor in recent years.


17. Riveting Reason

Second to Anthony's Cross in the Bob Lewis , he's still training at Santa Anita and will take another run at the California contenders. Riveting Reason remains on the list because he's very consistent and has hit the board 7 out of 9 races.

Maybe he can win a big one before it's over.


18. To Honor and Serve

This is a double Grade 2 winner who is really a good horse. He may also be fourth or fifth choice in the Florida Derby. Bill Mott has been slow in returning this one to the races but he already has enough graded money. But is it worth the trip if he gets dusted by Soldat or Dialed in on April 3rd. Getting a horse to the Derby can be about timing, but it's also about winning.


19. Silver Medallion

Now sinks to third or fourth on the list of California Derby hopefuls. He's bred for distance but there are few options at Santa Anita other than the S. A. Derby.

He'll definitely make that race because he's eligible for a $5.5 million bonus if he wins that and the Preakness.


20. Sweet Ducky

Just love the name.

He was second in the Holy Bull and Kelly Breen is hoping that the trip to Churchill Downs will take Sweet Ducky to the winner's circle in the Louisiana Derby.  Time for Ducky to make the big splash.


Falling off the list this week:

Wilkinson is 21st but he'll be back and higher if he hits the board in the Louisiana Derby. And of course, Brethren is the big dropper although he just falls to eleven.

On the Derby Trail this week, we have a single prep race. But the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn will be worth watching as Terry Wallace calls them down the stretch. There is $300,000 at stake, so the winner gets a real boost toward the Derby starting gate.

Hope you had the $1 dollar trifecta in the Tampa Bay Derby.  If you bet (All) over (All) over Brethren #10, the $56 bet paid about $4,000.  Tampa has been the race track for those kinds of betting bombshells this winter.

Thanks for reading.