FACES NINE RIVALS

OLDSMAR, FL.
– Shortly after last fall’s Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, trainer Dale Romans laid out a road map to get his talented 3-year-old, Brody’s Cause, into the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

The colt’s first major step toward Thoroughbred immortality takes place Saturday in the 36th edition of the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Brody’s Cause is the presumptive favorite in a 10-horse field for the mile-and-a-sixteenth main-track contest, which offers 50-20-10-5 points to the first four finishers as part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series of 3-year-old prep races.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is the highlight of a lucrative Festival Day 36 Presented by Lambholm South card that includes the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes, for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; and the $100,000 Challenger Stakes for older horses at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track.

Romans, who won the 2011 Preakness with Shackleford and was voted an Eclipse Award as Outstanding Trainer in 2012, shipped Brody’s Cause to Tampa Bay Downs from Gulfstream Park last week to acclimate him to the sand-based surface. Brody’s Cause breezed four furlongs here Sunday in 48 2/5 seconds, the sixth-fastest of 72 works at the distance.

Romans said Brody’s Cause has not missed a beat in his training since returning to the track after his third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Oct. 31. If all start, the favorite will break from the No. 8 post.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is the 11th race on a 12-race program scheduled to begin at 12:23 p.m. The first 7,500 fans through the turnstiles will receive a cooler bag with the distinctive Tampa Bay Downs logo, with paid admission.

“He’s been training very good all year for his 3-year-old debut,” said Romans, who trains Brody’s Cause for Albaugh Family Stable. “He’s doing everything right.”

While the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby field is comprised of potential superstars, a genuine one will start in the Hillsborough. The 5-year-old mare Tepin, which won the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes here four weeks ago after a 2015 campaign that saw her win the Breeders’ Cup Mile against males and earn an Eclipse Award, is likely to be an overwhelming favorite against nine foes.

Tepin, which is trained by Mark Casse and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, drew the No. 6 post position and will carry co-high weight (along with Ball Dancing) of 122 pounds. The Hillsborough is the 10th race.

A full field of 14 sophomore fillies will compete in the Florida Oaks, slated as the eighth race. Likely top contenders include Ava’s Kitten, from the barn of trainer Chad Brown; Grade III winner Family Meeting, trained by Tom Proctor; Spinamiss, a Pletcher charge; and Gamble’s Ghost, a Grade III winner trained by Josie Carroll.

Seven older horses will contest the Challenger, which is the third race. The most accomplished is Neck ‘n Neck, a consistent graded-stakes performer with career earnings of more than $1-million. Ian Wilkes is the trainer.

In the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, Brody’s Cause will shoulder an impost of 122 pounds, spotting his foes between 4-to-6 pounds. Victory Saturday is the desired result, of course; Romans said the next planned step for the son of Giant’s Causeway-Sweet Breanna is the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 9, followed by the Run for the Roses.

It is the same route traveled by 2007 Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense, which won the Oldsmar showcase and finished second in the Blue Grass before his historic Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands triumph.

“We decided to go this route because of the timing (between races), and we’ve been staying the course,” Romans said. “He was very good his whole 2-year-old year, winning the Grade I (Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland) and closing so well in the Breeders’ Cup.

“Tampa Bay Downs is a good racetrack, and we shipped him a little early because it’s a little different than the places he’s been training and I thought it would be good for him to get some miles over it before he runs. Hopefully he will come running Saturday, get past all of them and have a nice gallop-out, to Kentucky,” Romans said.

Brody’s Cause’s regular jockey, Corey Lanerie, will be in for the assignment.

Top challengers appear to include the 1-2 finishers in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 13, Destin and Rafting. Destin, which will be ridden by Javier Castellano, is one of two Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby entrants from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, who won last year’s Tampa Bay Derby with Carpe Diem. The other is Outwork.

Like Brody’s Cause and Carpe Diem, Destin was sired by Giant’s Causeway.

“He’s trained very consistently,” Pletcher noted in a text message about Destin, which breezed four furlongs Saturday in 48.99 seconds at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach. “I feel like he should continue to improve with more experience.”

The full Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby field in post position order, with trainer and jockey:
1. Morning Fire, Keith Nations, Daniel Centeno; 2. Rafting, H. Graham Motion, Edgar Prado; 3. Outwork, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez; 4. Economic Model, Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz, Jr.; 5. Star Hill, George R. Arnold, II, Julien Leparoux; 6. Riker, Mark Casse, Florent Geroux; 7. Destin, Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano; 8. Brody’s Cause, Dale Romans, Corey Lanerie; 9. Tale of S’avall, Barclay Tagg, Joe Bravo; 10. Awesome Banner, Stanley Gold, Antonio Gallardo.