TAMPA BAY TODAY – JAN 11

Once again, it’s worth mentioning how much we enjoy the turf racing in NoFla, especially on a course that plays as fairly as Tampa Bay’s.

The eighth race is a preliminary allowances going one mile for older horses and it attracts, as many of these events do, horses from some of the headier venues in New York, South Florida and the Jersey Shore.

The post time favorite could be U S Navy Cross if he draws in for Chad Brown, even if he hasn’t been exactly what Joe Allen and Peter Brant had in mind when they spent $550K at auction.

After breaking maiden on debut at 2, he was fourth in the G3 Nashua then disappeared in the spring at Keeneland, where he finished last, then he disappeared again.

Obviously something amiss and here he might be in turf debut from a mare who’s dropped six winners, including three stakes winners and three on turf. One can check both the nurture and nature boxes. We’re taking a pass.

Three in the body of the race look very live, from the rail out, That Quality (7-2), J Beresford Tipton (5-2) and Mountain Holiday (8-1). Of course, we reviewed all pertinent video.

We liked all of their best races. That Quality raced once and, well, showed quality. As the favorite, he broke like a shot from the gate, went head to head inside on first turn, stalked comfortably down the back and opened the lead out into the lane.

We like speed horses with Losing focus late, he won by a safe, long neck but he was professional enough to change leads smoothly on cue to break maiden on debut; the second and third finishers both came back to win.

He’s been away since the AUG 17 route at Monmouth Park. He shipped south from Belmont and has had two local works. Trainer Jonathan Thomas is profitable in two categories; 29% off a maiden win and 30% of 90-days+ layups. Both apply.

J Beresford Tipton is a strong contender, although a 5-2 early line does seem presumptive. An equine traveler, today’s sixth lifetime start comes at a sixth disparate venue. He’s had one start at 4, an even fourth in which the two favorites finished 1-2, the winner an even money Chad Brown loose leader.

But he made a run over speed favoring Gulfstream turf, the mile timed in 1:33. He surged into the lane from the 3-path and finished willingly, if a bit one-paced late, after altering course inside.

Following that, he returned to his Tampa base and immediately worked a brisk half-mile. Pablo Morales, who excels with this kind, picks up the mount from Arnaud Delacour.

The third contender is Mountain Holiday and we liked his second start. Circumstances dictated that he race in company virtually throughout, never getting a breather, he surged on the rail on the bend but was checked mid-turn. He re-engaged and came on gamely late–second by less than a length.

Daniel Centeno retains the mount a fourth time for Keith Nations, who is profitable when going dirt to turf and is 17% efficient with layups of 90 days or greater. He’d be very tempting anywhere near his early line odds.

But this should come down to who’s better; That Quality and J Beresford Tipton. The former has more upside and perhaps talent to spare; the latter is extremely well meant in this spot. The tote will decide the proper straight play. We will box the three in all vertical spots regardless.

Why not check out That Quality’s debut to see whether or not he might be all that: RACE 10 at Monmouth Park, AUG 17.

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