The one-two finishers in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 4 at Tampa Bay Downs are leading candidates to headline a full field of 12 3-year-olds for Saturday’s Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, a leading prep race for the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown.
The 32nd running of the mile-and-a-sixteenth Tampa Bay Derby is the highlight of Tampa Bay Downs Festival Day, the biggest day of racing on the Oldsmar track’s calendar.
Also scheduled are the 14th edition of the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares at about a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf and the 32nd renewal of the $100,000 Stonewall Farm Ocala Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-40-yards.
Owned by Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier and trained by Eddie Kenneally, Battle Hardened was bred in Kentucky by Lakeside Farm LLC. In addition to his Sam F. Davis victory, he has finished second in two of his three other starts.
A son of Giant’s Causeway-Jen’s Fashion, Battle Hardened is bred to go a distance of ground and could emerge as a late-developing Kentucky Derby candidate with a strong performance Saturday.
Prospective, who won the $100,000 Pasco Stakes on Jan. 14 at Tampa Bay Downs before his runner-up Sam F. Davis effort under Luis Contreras, impressed the clockers at Palm Meadows on Friday by breezing four furlongs in 48 4/5 seconds, the second-best time of 18 workouts at the distance.
Prospective, who won the Grade III Grey Stakes at Woodbine in Toronto as a 2-year-old in October, is owned by John C. Oxley, who owned 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, and trained by Mark Casse. The son of Malibu Moon-Spirited Away was bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm LLC. His broodmare sire, Awesome Again, won the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
Also working Saturday at Calder in Miami was Ravelo’s Boy, a fast-closing fourth in the Sam F. Davis under Jeffrey Sanchez while beaten only a length and a quarter. Ravelo’s Boy breezed four furlongs in 1:00 4/5, the second-best time among 27 workouts at the distance.
A son of Lawyer Ron-Dance Tune bred in Kentucky by Stonewall Farm Stallions, Ravelo’s Boy is owned by Korina Stable and trained by Manuel J. Azpurua.
Fox Rules, a New York-bred gelding who tired after pressing the pace in the Sam F. Davis for almost a mile, finishing sixth, kept busy at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01 1/5.
Bred by Dennis and Deborah Petrisak and owned by the couple’s Langpap Stables, Fox Rules is trained by M. Anthony Ferraro. He is a son of Roman Ruler-Shesastonecoldfox.
Tampa Bay Derby candidate Golden Ticket worked five furlongs Saturday at Gulfstream Park in 1:00 4/5 handily for trainer Kenneth McPeek, who won the 1999 Tampa Bay Derby with Pineaff. Golden Ticket, owned by Magic City Thoroughbred Partners, broke his maiden Feb. 11 at Gulfstream at a mile-and-a-sixteenth in a race taken off the turf.
Tell All You Know was another Tampa Bay Derby possible to work over the weekend, breezing five furlongs at Hunter Farm Training Center in Ocala in 1:02 4/5. A Kentucky-bred son of Van Nistelrooy, Tell All You Know is owned by World Thoroughbreds Racing, Inc. and trained by Chad Stewart.
Others considering the Tampa Bay Derby include Take Charge Indy, second in the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity as a 2-year-old; Spring Hill Farm, who led from start to finish in his only two races at Gulfstream; Chief Energy; and Twin.
The Hillsborough Stakes and the Stonewall Farm Ocala Suncoast Stakes are also expected to attract full fields. Heading the list of nominees is French-bred 5-year-old Zagora, who began her 2012 campaign with a solid two-and-a-quarter length score in the Grade III Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 4.
Saturday’s Tampa Bay Downs Festival Day features a first-race post time of noon. A commemorative cooler bag will be given out with paid admission while supplies last.
On Sunday’s card, Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Leandro Goncalves won the seventh race aboard 5-year-old mare Cavallo Murano for owner Alpha Delta Stables and trainer Leigh Delacour. The victory was the 70th for Goncalves at the meeting.
Goncalves has won at least one race on 18 consecutive Tampa Bay Downs cards. However, his streak of winning days was interrupted Feb. 25; although he did not ride that day at Tampa Bay Downs, he finished fifth aboard Shared Property in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes in his only mount at Fair Grounds.