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Edited Churchill Staff Release  – Saturday’s 43rd running of the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III) is the lone race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series over the next two weeks.

          While the Championship Series will take a short breather, the Tampa Bay Derby could pose as a major steppingstone to Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s talented colt Tapit Trice. The son of Tapit was a resounding allowance winner in his last start on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream Park.

          Fans won’t have long to hold their breath on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the series will close with a fury. Only eight weeks remain until the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) on Saturday, May 6.

IMPROVING COLT TAPIT TRICE TOPS FIELD OF 12 IN TAMPA BAY DERBY – Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s dominating eight-length allowance winner Tapit Trice headlines a full field of 12 three-year-olds that were entered in Saturday’s $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III).

          The 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby is a Championship Series event on the Road to the Kentucky Derby where the winner will receive 50 points in their attempt to qualify for the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI). The second-fifth-place finishers will receive points on a 20-15-10-5 scale.

          The Tampa Bay Derby will go as Race 11 of 12 with a post time of 5:15 p.m. ET.

          Trained by Todd Pletcher, Tapit Trice began his career in New York where he broke his maiden at second asking by a neck against Gotham (GIII) runner-up Slip Mahoney. Soon after that performance, Tapit Trice arrived at Pletcher’s Palm Beach Downs string. In his first start in Florida, Tapit Trice demolished five rivals in a first-level allowance contest at Gulfstream Park. Tapit Trice earned a stout 99 Brisnet Speed Rating for his allowance victory, the highest last out figure of any horse in the Tampa Bay Derby. Jockey Luis Saez will make the four-hour journey from Gulfstream Park to Tampa Bay Downs for the mount and break from post No. 6.

          Other talented colts that entered the Tampa Bay Derby include the $250,000 Sam F. Davis second and third place finishers Groveland and Classic Car Wash, respectively.

          Groveland, owned by Godolphin and trained by Eoin Harty, has been based at Tampa Bay Downs since November and has yet to finish outside the top three positions. In the Sam F. Davis, Groveland tracked from just off the swift early pace to finish 1 ¼ lengths behind Litigate, who is targeting the $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII). Local rider Daniel Centeno will be in the irons from post 4.

          Gary Barber’s Classic Car Wash finished third in the Sam F. Davis and was defeated by 2 ¾ lengths at odds of 12-1. The improving son of Noble Bird broke his maiden in eye-popping fashion by 8 ½ lengths in a maiden optional $50,000 claiming event on Dec. 2 at Gulfstream Park. In his first start against winners, the Mark Casse-trained Classic Car Wash defeated six rivals in a state-bred first-level allowance contest on the Gulfstream Park Tapeta surface. Jockey Emisael Jaramillo will once again have the call on Classic Car Wash and break from post 2.

          Here is the complete field from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Lord Miles (Paco Lopez, Saffie Joseph Jr.); Classic Car Wash (Jaramillo, Casse); Classic Legacy (Irad Ortiz Jr. Bill Mott); Groveland (Centeno, Harty); Mikey Bananas (Pablo Morales, Tim Hamm); Tapit Trice (Saez, Pletcher); Freedom Road (Hector Diaz Jr., Gregg Sacco); Dreaming of Kona (Scott Speith, Aldana Speith); Shesterkin (Edgard Zayas, Pletcher); Champions Dream (Antonio Gallardo, Casse); Zydeceaux (Samuel Marin, Ramon Minguet); and Prairie Hawk (Samy Camacho, Joseph).

          Groveland, Mikey Bananas and Zydeceaux are not early Triple Crown nominees but can become eligible with a $6,000 payment due by March 27. Lord Miles will race with blinkers off. Shesterkin will add blinkers for the first time.

          Fans can watch and wager on the Tampa Bay Derby at, the official wagering provider of Churchill Downs Incorporated and the Kentucky Derby.

TAMPA BAY DERBY PRODUCED TWO KENTUCKY DERBY WINNERS – The Tampa Bay Derby has only produced two Kentucky Derby winners in 42 years but the race has proven successful in the last decade as 19 three-year-olds used the 1 1/16-mile race as a steppingstone to the “Run for the Roses.”

          In 2007, Jim Tafel’s Street Sense defeated Any Given Saturday by a scant nose in the Tampa Bay Derby prior to his victory in Kentucky Derby 133. Three years later, WinStar Farm’s Super Saver finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby but would go on to victory in Kentucky Derby 136.

          Since Super Saver’s Kentucky Derby-winning performance in 2010, only one other contender has cracked the top three finishers on the first Saturday in May: Tacitus, who was third in 2019.

PLETCHER SEEKS RECORD-EXTENDING SIXTH WIN IN TAMPA BAY DERBY – Trainer Todd Pletcher has dominated the Tampa Bay Derby and will attempt to land his record-extending sixth win in Saturday’s race with likely favorite Tapit Trice and improving 3-year-old Shesterkin.

          Pletcher recorded his first Tampa Bay Derby victory in 2004 with Limehouse. He went winless in the next eight editions but won four of five races from 2013-17: Verrazano (2013); Carpe Diem (2015); Destin (2016); and Tapwrit (2017).


Eoin Harty, trainer, Groveland: “He’s always acted like he was a little bit special. He has all the qualities you look for in a nice horse and he has a wonderful disposition, which is probably his main strength. … If you told me at the top of the stretch he’d be fourth (in the Sam F. Davis) I would have been happy. If you told me he would hit the board, I’d have been ecstatic. And if you told me he’d be second, I’d be delighted. I went through a whole range of emotions in the last three-eighths of a mile.”

Gregg Sacco, trainer, Freedom Road: “He’s come out of each of his workouts since then better and better as far as his fitness and energy levels go he is right on cue. The Tampa Bay Derby is a very prestigious race and we’ll be honored and privileged to be a part of it. I feel that if he displays the same strong kick he has sprinting, he will be competitive. He’s got the home court advantage and he’ll be able to walk over from his own barn. It looks like there are going to be a lot of talented horses running and a lot of unknowns. But you’ve got to take a swing in the batter’s box to connect.”

KENTUCKY DERBY AND OAKS FUTURE WAGERS RUN FRIDAY-SUNDAY – On the heels of winning his 3-year-old debut in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (Grade II), Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte was tabbed as the 4-1 morning line favorite in Pool 5 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which is set for its three-day span Friday-Sunday.

Pool 5 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will run concurrently with the lone pool of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager. In addition to $2 Win and Exacta betting, an Oaks/Derby Future Double is part of the wagering menu. The wagers will open Friday at noon (all times Eastern) and the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will close Sunday at 6 p.m. while the Oaks Future Wager will close 30 minutes later at 6:30 p.m.

Through the first four pools of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Forte was tabbed as the individual favorite three times – Pool 2 (10-1); Pool 3 (7-1) and Pool 4 (8-1). In the first pool, Forte closed as the second individual choice at 16-1 behind Extra Anejo (12-1).

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Forte made his return to the races Saturday and cruised to a 4 ½-length score in the Fountain of Youth. Previously, the talented son of Violence was victorious in the $300,000 Hopeful (GI), $600,000 Breeders’ Futurity (GI) and $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His impressive resume earned the Eclipse Award for Champion 2-Year-Old.

Here is the complete field for Pool 5 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (with trainer and morning line odds): #1 Angel of Empire (Brad Cox, 30-1); #2 Arabian Knight (Tim Yakteen, 10-1); #3 Arabian Lion (Tim Yakteen, 50-1); #4 Blazing Sevens (Chad Brown, 40-1); #5 Cagliostro (Cherie DeVaux, 99-1); #6 Cairo (IRE) (Aidan O’Brien, 50-1); #7 Classic Car Wash (Mark Casse, 99-1): #8 Classic Catch (Todd Pletcher, 50-1); #9 Confidence Game (Keith Desormeaux, 30-1); #10 Congruent (Antonio Sano, 80-1); #11 Cyclone Mischief (Dale Romans, 40-1); #12 Denington (Kenny McPeek, 80-1); #13 Disarm (Steve Asmussen, 99-1); #14 Forte (Pletcher, 4-1); #15 Geaux Rocket Ride (Richard Mandella, 20-1); #16 General Jim (Shug McGaughey, 80-1); #17 Hejazi (Tim Yakteen, 40-1); #18 Hit Show (Brad Cox, 30-1); #19 Instant Coffee (Brad Cox, 30-1); #20 Kingsbarns (Todd Pletcher, 50-1); #21 Litigate (Todd Pletcher, 50-1); #22 Mage (Gustavo Delgado, 80-1); #23 Major Dude (Todd Pletcher, 50-1); #24 Mandarin Hero (JPN) (Terunobu Fujita, 50-1); #25 National Treasure (Tim Yakteen, 30-1); #26 Perriere (JPN) (Yoichi Kuroiwa, 50-1); #27 Practical Move (Tim Yakteen, 8-1); #28 Raise Cain (Ben Colebrook, 50-1); #29 Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, 40-1); #30 Reincarnate (Tim Yakteen, 30-1); #31 Rocket Can (Bill Mott, 40-1); #32 Skinner (John Sherriffs, 40-1); #33 Sun Thunder (Kenny McPeek, 99-1); #34 Tapit Trice (Todd Pletcher, 15-1); #35 Tapit’s Conquest (Brad Cox, 80-1); #36 Two Eagles River (Chris Hartman, 80-1): #37 Two Phil’s (Larry Rivelli, 80-1); #38 Verifying (Brad Cox, 50-1); #39 Victory Formation (Brad Cox, 80-1); and #40 “All Other 3-Year-Olds” (5-1).

Overall, there are 18 new entrants in Pool 5 from Pool 4: Arabian Knight, Arabian Lion, Cagliostro, Cairo (IRE), Classic Car Wash, Classic Catch, Congruent, Denington, Hejazi, Major Dude, Mandarin Hero, National Treasure, Perriere, Raise Cain, Reincarnate, Skinner, Sun Thunder and Two Eagles River.

In the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, D J Stable’s Champion Filly Wonder Wheel was made the 8-1 morning line favorite in the field of 39 individual betting interests plus an option for “All Other 3-Year-Old Fillies” from the 2020 foal crop that were not listed.

Trained by Mark Casse, Wonder Wheel made her seasonal debut in the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes where she was heavily backed at odds of 1-2 but was upset by fellow Kentucky Oaks Future Wager contender Dreaming of Snow.

Along with Wonder Wheel, other top fillies that were incorporated in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager include Godolphin’s $400,000 Rachel Alexandra (GII) winner Pretty Mischievous and $300,000 Honeybee (GIII) winner Wet PaintGold Standard Racing’s flashy multiple stakes winner Hoosier Philly; and Stonestreet Stables’ $250,000 Demoiselle (GII) winner Julia Shining.

Here is the field for the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager (with trainer and morning line odds): #1 Affirmative Lady (Graham Motion, 99-1); #2 Ami Please (Doug O’Neill, 99-1); #3 And Tell Me Nolies (Peter Miller, 40-1); #4 Asset Purchase (Chad Brown, 30-1); #5 Atomically (Todd Pletcher, 50-1); #6 Blessed Touch (Tim Yakteen, 50-1); #7 Botanical (Brad Cox, 20-1); #8 Capella (Brad Cox, 40-1); #9 Chop Chop (Brad Cox, 40-1); #10 Clearly Unhinged (Michael McCarthy, 40-1); #11 Condensation (Chris Hartman, 40-1); #12 Dorth Vader (Mike Yates, 20-1); #13 Dreaming of Snow (Gerald Bennett, 30-1); #14 Flashy Gem (Brad Cox, 40-1); #15 Flying Connection (Todd Fincher, 50-1); #16 Gaming Girl (Todd Pletcher, 50-1); #17 Grand Love (Steve Asmussen, 50-1); #18 Guns n’ Graces (Chad Brown, 40-1); #19 Homecoming Queen (Rodolphe Brisset, 99-1); #20 Hoosier Philly (Tom Amoss, 15-1); #21 Interpolate (Chad Brown, 30-1); #22 Julia Shining (Todd Pletcher, 12-1); #23 Justique (John Shirreffs, 40-1); #24 Merlazza (Brad Cox, 99-1); #25 Mimi Kakushi (Salem Bin Ghadayer, 80-1); #26 Miracle (Todd Plecher, 20-1); #27 Munnys Gold (Todd Pletcher, 30-1); #28 Occult (Chad Brown, 20-1); #29 Pretty Mischievous (Brendan Walsh, 10-1); #30 Punchbowl (Brad Cox, 20-1); #31 Red Carpet Ready (Rusty Arnold II, 15-1); #32 Royal Spa (Rodolphe Brisset, 50-1); #33 Seduction (Todd Pletcher, 50-1); #34 She’s Lookin Lucky (Matt Shirer, 30-1); #35 Shidabhuti (Chad Brown, 15-1); #36 Southlawn (Norm Casse, 20-1); #37 The Alys Look (Brad Cox, 15-1); #38 Wet Paint (Brad Cox, 12-1); #39 Wonder Wheel (Casse, 8-1); and #40 “All Other 3-Year-Old Fillies” (15-1).

The $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) is set for Saturday, May 6 and the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks will run one day prior on Friday, May 5.

There are no refunds in the Kentucky Derby or Oaks Future Wagers. Should Churchill Downs officials determine during the duration of this week’s three-day pool that one of the wagering interests has experienced an injury, illness or other circumstance that would prevent the horse from participating in the Kentucky Derby or Oaks, betting on the individual horse will be suspended immediately.         

Following this pool, there will be one additional opportunity for fans to bet early on this year’s Kentucky Derby contenders. Pool 6 will span March 30-April 1.

KEY RACES TO WATCH TO WATCH – This weekend there are several races around the world that could have implications on the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. Here are some of the key races:


·        9:55 p.m. ET, TP 9, MSW, 3yo, 1 1/16 M


·        12:57 p.m. ET, TAM 2, MSW, 3yo, 1 M 40 Yds

·        2:38 p.m. ET, GP 5, MSW, 3yo, 1 1/16 M

·        4:18 p.m. ET, OP 6, MSW, 3yo, 1 M

·        5:15 p.m. ET, TAM 11, $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (GIII), 3yo, 1 1/16 M

·        5:22 p.m. ET, OP 8, MSW, 3yo, 1 M

·        6 p.m. ET, SA 6, MSW, 3yo, 1 1/16 M

·        6:27 p.m. ET, FG 8, $75,000 Allen Black Cat LaCombe Memorial, 3yo f, 1 M (turf)

FORTE NEW LEADER ON ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD – Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte stamped himself as the early Derby favorite by winning last Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park.

          Here are the Top 20 horses on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard:

PositionHorseTrainerResumePossible Next StartPoints
1ForteTodd Pletcher1st Fountain of Youth1st Breeders’ Cup Juvenile1st Breeders’ FuturityApril 1: Florida Derby90 
Practical MoveTim Yakteen1st San Felipe1st Los Alamitos FuturityApril 8: Santa Anita Derby60
Confidence GameKeith Desormeaux1st Rebel3rd Lecomte5th IroquoisApril 1: Arkansas Derby or April 8: Blue Grass or May 6: Kentucky Derby57
4Angel of EmpireBrad Cox1st Risen Star2nd Smarty JonesMarch 25: Louisiana Derby or April 8: Blue Grass54 
5Raise CainBen Colebrook1st Gotham2nd Gun RunnerApril 8: Blue Grass or Wood Memorial54
6Rocket CanBill Mott1st Holy Bull2nd Fountain of YouthApril 1: Florida Derby40
7Red Route OneSteve Asmussen2nd Rebel2nd Southwest3rd Breeders’ Futurity4th Kentucky Jockey ClubMarch 25: Louisiana Derby33
8Instant CoffeeBrad Cox1st Lecomte1st Kentucky Jockey Club4th Breeders’ FuturityMarch 25: Louisiana Derby32
9Sun ThunderKenny McPeek2nd Risen Star4th SouthwestMarch 25: Louisiana Derby24
10General BankerJames Ferraro3rd Gotham3rd Withers3rd JeromeApril 8: Wood Memorial24
11Two Phil’sLarry Rivelli2nd Lecomte3rd Risen StarMarch 25: Jeff Ruby Steaks23
12CongruentAntonio Sano1st John Battaglia MemorialMarch 25: Jeff Ruby Steaks20
13Hit ShowBrad Cox1st WithersApril 8: Wood Memorial20
14LitigateTodd Pletcher1st Sam F. DavisMarch 25: Louisiana Derby20
15Geaux Rocket RideRichard Mandella2nd San FelipeApril 8: Santa Anita Derby20
16Slip MahoneyBrad Cox2nd GothamApril 8: Wood Memorial20
17Curly JackTom Amoss1st Iroquois2nd Kentucky Jockey Club5th Breeders’ Cup JuvenileMarch 25: Louisiana Derby17
18Blazing SevensChad Brown1st Champagne4th Breeders’ Cup JuvenileTBA16
19Arctic ArroganceLinda Rice2nd Withers2nd Jerome2nd RemsenApril 8: Wood Memorial or Bay Shore16
20ReincarnateTim Yakteen3rd RebelApril 1: Arkansas Derby15


Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Forte emerged from the Fountain of Youth in good order and would remain in Florida to tackle the $1 million Florida Derby (GI). …

Japan-based 3-year-old Mandarin Hero, who competes on the regional NAR circuit, will make his next start in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (GI), according to his trainer Terunobo Fujita. The colt, who has won four of five career starts in Japan, could target the Kentucky Derby depending on his result in the Santa Anita Derby, according to his connections. …

Trainer Doug O’Neill reported UAE Oaks (GIII) runner-up Ami Please will likely skip challenging open company in the UAE Derby (GII) and target the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). Ami Please is not an early nominee for the Kentucky Oaks but her connections have stated to Churchill Downs officials she would be a late nominee. …

The European Road to the Kentucky Derby will have its penultimate event Wednesday at Kempton for the Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes. The race will award the top five finishers points on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale. …

Trainer Larry Rivelli reported Lecomte (GIII) runner-up and Risen Star (GII) third-place finisher Two Phil’s would target the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII) on March 25 at Turfway Park. The son of Hard Spun recently returned from Fair Grounds to Rivelli’s care at Hawthorne. …

Derby fans can keep up with all the news and notes on the Road to the Kentucky Derby by listening to “Inside the Kentucky Derby: – available on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube. …

Following its annual closer for winter renovations, the Churchill Downs stable area will reopen Tuesday, March 21 and the first day of training is scheduled for Friday, March 24.


March 25 (six weeks out) – $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII), 1 3/16 miles, Fair Grounds (Top 4 points: 100-40-20-10)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Angel of Empire (Brad Cox); Baseline Beater (Neil Pessin); Cagliostro (Cherie DeVaux); Curly Jack (Tom Amoss); Denington (Kenny McPeek); Instant Coffee (Brad Cox); Jace’s Road (Brad Cox); Kingsbarns (Todd Pletcher); Litigate (Todd Pletcher); Red Route One (Steve Asmussen); Shopper’s Revenge (Steve Asmussen); Sun Thunder (Kenny McPeek); Tapit Shoes (Brad Cox); Tapit’s Conquest (Brad Cox); Victory Formation (Brad Cox)

March 25 (six weeks out) – $1 million UAE Derby (GII), 1 3/16 miles, Meydan Racecourse (Top 4 points: 100-40-20-10)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Commissioner King (Sabah Alshammri); Continaur (Yoshito Yahagi); Derma Sotogake (Hidetaka Otonashi); Es Unico (Antonio Luis Cintra); Perriere (JPN) (Yoichi Kuroiwa); Tall Boy (Doug O’Neill)

March 25 (six weeks out) – $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII), 1 1/8 miles (Tapeta), Turfway Park (Top 4 points: 100-40-20-10)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Congruent (Antonio Sano); Funtastic Again (Wesley Ward); Major Dude (Todd Pletcher); Scoobie Quando (Ben Colebrook); Two Phil’s (Larry Rivelli); Wadsworth (Brad Cox)

March 26 (six weeks out) – $600,000 Sunland Derby (GIII), 1 1/8 miles, Sunland Park (Top 4 points: 50-20-10-5)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Henry Q (Todd Fincher); One in Vermillion (Esteban Martinez)

April 1 (five weeks out) – $1 million Florida Derby (GI), 1 1/8 miles, Gulfstream Park (Top 4 points: 100-40-20-10)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Cyclone Mischief (Dale Romans); Forte (Todd Pletcher); General Jim (Shug McGaughey);Rocket Can (Bill Mott);

April 1 (five weeks out) – $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (GI), 1 1/8 miles, Oaklawn Park (Top 4 points: 100-40-20-10)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Bourbon Bash (Wayne Lukas); Confidence Game (Keith Desormeaux); Disarm (Steve Asmussen); Jace’s Road (Brad Cox); Verifying (Brad Cox); Victory Formation (Brad Cox)

April 8 (four weeks out) – $750,000 Wood Memorial (GII), 1 1/8 miles, Aqueduct (Top 4 points: 100-40-20-10)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Arctic Arrogance (Linda Rice); General Banker (James Ferraro); Hit Show (Brad Cox); Raise Cain (Ben Colebrook); Slip Mahoney (Brad Cox); Verifying (Brad Cox)

April 8 (four weeks out) – $1 million Blue Grass (GI), 1 1/8 miles, Keeneland (Top 4 points: 100-40-20-10)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Angel of Empire (Brad Cox); Bourbon Bash (Wayne Lukas); Confidence Game (Keith Desormeaux); Raise Cain (Ben Colebrook; Verifying (Brad Cox)

April 8 (four weeks out) – $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (GI), 1 1/8 miles, Santa Anita (Top 4 points: 100-40-20-10)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Arabian Knight (Tim Yakteen); Geaux Rocket Ride (Richard Mandella); Practical Move (Tim Yakteen); Mandarin Hero (Terunobo Fujita); Skinner (John Shirreffs)

April 15 (three weeks out) – $400,000 Lexington (GIII), 1 1/16 miles, Keeneland (Top 4 points: 20-8-4-2)

Known possible starters (with trainer): Bo Cruz (Al Stall Jr.)

Note: The possible fields for upcoming Kentucky Derby Championship Series races are fluid as owners and trainers vie for points. Known possible horses mentioned to be under consideration for each race are based on published news reports and other sources. Horses listed in italics are possible for multiple race

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