Headlining the Grade III $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby, a 1 1/16 miles main track test for three-year-olds, is General Quarters, who captured last month’s Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here. General Quarters has shown great aptitude for the Tampa surface and posted a bullet work here on March 7, going 5 furlongs in 1:01, the best of 12 horses training that morning. The son of Sky Mesa has never finished worse than second over the Oldsmar oval, and his victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes was only 1/5 of a second off of the track record set here by Street Sense in 2007.
The Grade III $200,000 Florida Oaks for three-year-old fillies is run over the main track at 1 1/16 miles; the field includes Rock Candy, who has won every race she’s started in over the Oldsmar oval for trainer Mike Zwiesler and owners Will Farish and Mrs. William S. Kilroy. The Mineshaft filly will retain the services of her regular jockey Carlos Montalvo and will look for her first Graded win in the Oaks. Don’t Forget Gil , who was third to Rock Candy in last month’s $75,000 Suncoast Stakes, missed the entire race by only ¾ of a length despite a troubled five-wide trip. Ameribelle also comes into the Florida Oaks from the Suncoast; the Medaglia D’oro filly was nipped at the wire by Rock Candy, who won the race by a neck.
Grade III $175,000 Hillsborough Stakes has attracted eleven entries; among them is Backseat Rhythm, who has accrued $717,196 in her 14 career starts. Her victories include the Grade I Garden City Stakes and the Grade II Lake Placid. The four-year-old El Corredor filly recorded a bullet work at Gulfstream Park on March 10, going a half mile in :46.3. Ballymore Lady, winner of the Grade III Endeavour Stakes here in February, returns to the Tampa turf for the Hillsborough. The Eddie Kenneally trainee is two-for-two over the Oldsmar oval and looks to make her second Graded win in the Hillsborough. Elusive Lady enters the Hillsborough after a runner-up effort in the Endeavour Stakes. Prior to the Endeavour, the Van Nistlerooy filly was second in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park for owner Gold Mark Farm and trainer John C. Kimmel.
The $75,000 Turf Dash yielded 14 entries, including Castles in the Sky; the Sky Classic gelding has never finished worse than second at Tampa Bay Downs. Castles in the Sky is a specialist at the five furlong turf distance and is under the care of current leading Tampa trainer Jamie Ness and will have the services of regular rider and meet-leading jockey Daniel Centeno. Also in the Turf Dash field is Cooper County, who has notched two wins at 5/8 mile on the lawn at Tampa Bay Downs for owner Briar Lane Farm and trainer James Hogue. His last victory in allowance company earned the R. Cooper gelding a 92 Beyer for his effort.
Finish Lines… Trainer Lynn Scace notched two wins on the afternoon’s program, giving the former leading Tampa trainer 16 wins through 62 days of racing. Scace’s first win of the day came with Snow Lass. The three-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic was bred in Florida by Arthur Appleton and carries the colors of Bridlewood Farm and was ridden to victory by Rosemary Homeister, Jr. Scace secured her second win with J Train, this time for owner Kel Jer Farm. The three-year-old gelded son of Put It Back was bred in Florida by Buddy Jones and was booted home by James Lopez.
Leading rider Daniel Centeno also added three wins to his tally today; the reinsman got his first victory aboard Schopenhauer, a four-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt under the care of trainer Dennis Manning for owner Earle Mack. Centeno struck again with Talented Princess, this time for owners High Grade Racing Stable and Aventura Stable and conditioner Peter Walder. Centeno rounded out his hat trick in the afternoon’s nightcap aboard Jenna Lu Hu; the five-year-old Lee’s Badger mare was saddled by owner Brenda McCarthy.
Please note that Tampa Bay Downs will switch its dark days from Wednesdays to Thursdays mid-month beginning on March 19th; Mondays at the Oldsmar oval will also be open for only poker, golf and simulcast racing throughout the month.