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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


OLDSMAR, FL, November 22, 2022 — To the surprise of many, Tampa Bay Downs opens its 97th race meet tomorrow. “They’ve been racing there that long?” remarked two colleagues I recently spoke with.

I get it about the duration of Tampa’s history, because most contemporary horseplayers have only begun to understand its valuable contribution on the national betting calendar in recent years.

Of course, 2006 juvenile champion Street Sense prepped for his winning Kentucky Derby run in Northern Florida, not in more populace South Florida with its Grade 1 prestige, glamour, and bigger bucks.

Today’s sophisticated players are well aware of Tampa’s product because they recognize the turf course as one of the best and safest in the country where form holds well. So do the horsemen.

On most sonny days, bettors can depend on an average nine-race program with four turf races per day.

That’s in a perfect world, of course, but on balance bettors get the large fields they want to play. While turf races are carded for all divisions and classes, claiming races on turf play as formfully as the classiest stakes.

As for racing at the higher levels, including trainers of classics aspirants, not the support of Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown, Mark Casse, Christophe Clement, Bill Mott and Shug McGaughey, and you realize that both turf and dirt serve a purpose; a good seasonal starting point.

In our Tampa Bay Today handicapping feature each racing day, we target big-field turf races first. Absent that, allowances, high class maidens, and especially any race for newly turned three-year-olds, represent more than blips on our handicapping radar.

From now through year’s end, Tampa will race on a three-day schedule: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. There will be Thursday racing on DEC 22. On New Year’s Day, Tampa will begin its four-day race week.

The first “big race” day is Feb. 11 with four stakes headed by the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds. The Davis Memorial is the main prep race for Lambholm South’s Tampa Bay Derby March 11. Both are “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points events.

HRI’s first Tampa Bay Today race analysis is Wednesday’s eighth, an optional/allowances which attracted a field of 10 going six furlongs.

The fastest runner on the Thoro-Graph scale is Expensive Style (5-2), trained by owner Juan Arriagada and ridden by one of his go-to guys, Jose Batista. The team is 23% effective when they hook up.

His best figure came on a wet strip here MAR 16, but he also earned a winning figure two-back at Delaware Park. He is a LAY-2 runner with tactical gas and a good draw. Rain is in today’s forecast, but not Wednesday’s. Still, the surface may be wet.

But we’re taking any value offered on Morgan Point (6-1). Indeed, half his early line ante post would be fair odds. The gelded three-year-old meets older but loves it here, where he’s won all three lifetime starts from six runs. He is 0-for-7 anywhere else.

And he’s courageous, too. See Morgan Point overcome trouble in a 7-furlong sprint at Tampa Bay Downs, MAY 4, Race 6 in HRI’s Tampa Bay Today video section on this page.

Two of his three wins have come at today’s trip, he enters with conditioning, exiting a one-turn mile at Gulfstream, and trainer John Vinson is profitable going route to sprint. ‘Morgan’ gets Tampa defending riding champion Samy Camacho in the boot.

We’re taking him to win at 3-1 or greater, an exacta box with Expensive Style, and will use fast-working Verrazanointhesky (20-1) to complete a few super-exotics.

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