By Mike Henry, Tampa Bay Downs – Many of the top Florida-breds in training are set to compete in Sunday’s 19th annual Florida Cup at Tampa Bay Downs, with six races for registered state-breds offering $110,000 each in purse money.
The Florida Cup races, which are part of a 12-race card beginning at 12:15 p.m., are scheduled as races 6-through-11 and will comprise the day’s 20-cent Ultimate 6 wager.
The field for Sunday’s sixth race, the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore for 3-year-olds at a distance of 7 furlongs on the main dirt track, grew to seven colts and geldings with the supplementary entry of Dean Delivers, a gelding bred and owned by Stonehedge, LLC and trained by Michael Yates.
Antonio Gallardo has been named to ride the 8-5 morning-line favorite, who finished second in the Grade III Swale Stakes on Feb. 5 at Gulfstream and was fifth in that track’s Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 5 after leading briefly.
Included in the field are the 1-2 finishers in Tampa Bay Downs’s Inaugural Stakes on Dec. 4, Cattin and Lightening Larry.
The seventh race, the Equistaff Sophomore Turf, is for 3-year-olds traveling a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the vaunted Oldsmar grass course. Included in the eight-horse field is a lone filly, 3-year-old stakes-winner Lemieux, owned by D. J. Stable and trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse. The jockey for Lemieux has yet to be named.
The 5-2 morning-line favorite in the wide-open affair is C My Meister, owned by Wendell Yates, Carroll Boys Racing and Maritza Weston and trained by Kelsey Danner. Daniel Centeno is the jockey.
Also entered is the Todd Pletcher-trained Treasure King, who broke his maiden on Feb. 25 at Gulfstream in his first career start and will be ridden by Pletcher’s Hall of Fame compatriot Javier Castellano, who won four Florida Cup stakes on the 2018 card.
The eighth race, the third leg of the Ultimate 6, is the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies at a distance of 7 furlongs on the main track. The field of seven is headed by Outfoxed, owned by LNJ Foxwoods and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Castellano has the riding assignment.
All three of Outfoxed’s victories came in stakes races, including the Gasparilla Stakes here on Jan. 15. She took a step up in class in her most recent race, finishing fifth on March 5 in the Grade II Davona Dale at Gulfstream.
Castellano again appears “well-seated” in the ninth race, the Grey Goose Turf Classic for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at the testing mile-and-an-eighth distance on the grass. He is named to ride Pletcher’s 5-year-old horse Shamrocket, established as the morning-line 8-5 favorite in the field of nine. Shamrocket, owned by Donegal Racing, won the Sunshine Classic Stakes on Jan. 15 at Gulfstream and captured the mile-and-a-half Point of Entry Stakes on Oct. 24 at Belmont, both with Castellano riding.
The 10th race, the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, is for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass. Lightly-raced 6-year-old mare Shifty She, owned by Pedigree Partners and trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., is the 3-5 morning-line favorite based on her 6-for-12 record that includes three stakes victories, topped by the Grade III Noble Damsel on Oct. 23 at Belmont. Edwin Gonzalez is the jockey.
And how is this for a possible Florida Cup piece de resistance: The 6-furlong NYRABETS Sprint, the 11th race, which has drawn a field of nine older horses, including the Bobby Raymond-trained 4-year-old filly Night Cap, winner here on March 12 of the Manatee Overnight Handicap. Jesus Castanon has the return riding assignment.
The 2-1 morning-line favorite is the Joseph-trained 4-year-old colt Officiating, a homebred racing for owner Vegso Racing Stable and to be ridden by Gonzalez. Two of his last three starts have resulted in Grade III victories, on Dec. 11 in the Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream and on March 5 at Aqueduct in the Tom Fool Handicap.
Anyone wanting another hot prospect at a potential good price might consider Casse’s 5-year-old Tap It to Win, who won this race last year and is a subsequent Grade III winner, or the Ralph Nicks-trained 5-year-old Shivaree, a two-time stakes winner at Tampa Bay Downs.
Fernando De La Cruz rode two winners today. He captured the first race via disqualification on Himelstein, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Windylea Farm and trained by Kathleen O’Connell. De La Cruz added the eighth race with Sister Ruler, a 6-year-old mare owned by Hoffman Farms Racing and trained by Michele Boyce