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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Oldsmar, FL, March 8, 2023 – Last week, South Florida’s Gulfstream Park had its moment in the sunshine to highlight this year’s Kentucky Derby aspirants. On Saturday, 264 miles to the north, the national spotlight will shine on Tampa Bay Downs.

Carl Nafzger, with a little help from Street Sense, became the first dual winner of the Tampa Bay and Kentucky Derbies, but that runner wasn’t the only equine of acclaim to begin their championship campaigns here.

The great race mare Royal Delta started her three-year-old season in Oldsmar, as did Drosselmeyer, whose return as a four-year-old culminated with a Breeders’ Cup Classic victory in the fall.

The legendary Tepin began her Eclipse title defense on Tampa’s celebrated turf course; Derby-winning Super Saver and turf champion Gio Ponti also began their winter seasons here.

Saturday’s Grade 2 Tampa Derby is the 43rd Racing Festival highlight. Tampa’s Derby is supported by the G3 Florida Oaks for three-year-old turf fillies, the G2 Hillsborough for older turf mares, the G3 Challenger Stakes, and the listed Columbia Stakes.

Todd Pletcher, seeking his sixth Tampa Derby, will saddle a pair, hoping highly regarded Tacit Trice or blinkers-added Shesterkin, impressive winner and runnerup in a highly rated Gulfstream allowances last out, will follow in the hoofprints of classics winners Always Dreaming and Tapwrit.

While Pletcher holds a very strong hand, it’s horse racing and the Tampa Derby is no walkover. Groveland, Classic Car Wash, Classic Legacy, Zydeceaux, Prairie Hawk, Lord Miles and Dreaming Of Kona all exit the Sam F. Davis seeking amends.

Add Laurel Futurity third and Tampa sprint winner Freedom Road and Mikey Bananas, second to Pletcher’s well-regarded Kingsbarns last out, the Tampa Bay Derby looms a highly competitive, quality renewal. Time to drill down:



The Skinny: Tapit Trice (8-50 is very likely to go short-priced favorite off his recent Gulfstream win. He’s run thrice—all one-turn miles—and last out was ridden with great confidence. After breaking from the inside slip, Luis Saez guided him outside and covered him up.

When ready, Saez asked him first to stalk leaders approaching the turn then blitz them three wide on the turn. Tussling with his mate briefly in upper stretch, he drew out impressively inside the final furlong and galloped out strongly, acting like a top prospect.

Groveland (6-1) and Classic Legacy (6-1) both caught the eye in the Davis Memorial. They finished second and fourth respectively, each having trouble. Groveland was checked trying to sneak through on the fence entering the far turn, awaited room approaching headstretch, and finished well for place.

Classic Legacy was squeezed between rivals shortly after leaving the gate, bore out into a rival on lower first turn, raced wide the rest of the way, launching a 4-5 wide rally on the turn then continued his forward progress well. Bill Mott, 22% effective in LAY-2 scenarios, and the colt goes first-time Irad here.

Freedom Road (15-1) made a long, sustained run to win a Tampa sprint JAN 21 and was pointed here directly, said trainer Greg Sacco. Is he a two-turn horse with these? He loses Pablo Morales to dark horse Mikey Bananas.

Prairie Hawk (20-1) was killed by a wide draw today after getting outrun in the Davis but won two two-turners here previously and gets the meet’s leading rider, Samy Camacho Jr.


POTENTIAL VALUE PLAY: Classic Legacy to win if 4-1 is available.

EXOTICA: Will use Classic Legacy, Shesterkin (9-2) and Groveland in exactas, and will sprinkle price Freedom Road, and Prairie Hawk into the super-exotic mix.


The Skinny: Won’t need a search warrant to find the deserving favorite and most probable winner. And please spare me that it’s her first start of the year, she draws post 10 and is 2-1 on the early line–all true. But this is Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz, two names that renders those obstacles matter of fact. Free Look was second in a New York Grade 2 then was beaten five lengths in the BC Juvenile Turf, beating more than half the 14 horse field.

But there are two price shots that are more than viable and both are 15-1 on the early line: Mission of Joy has competitive figures, is forward looking, is 2-for-2 locally and gets Gallardo and the pole for Graham Motion. Did we mention that she breezed a half-mile that was 8th fastest of 122 workers the week of MAR 5? As for Stephanie Charm shoe roared home behind a Todd good one in the Ginger Brew then was poorly handled in the G3 Sweetest Chant. Gets a change of pilots and goes first Lasix, as does Mission of Joy. Making an entry of both should garner about 8-1, which would be fair odds.


POTENTIAL WIN VALUE: Mission of Joy and/or Stephanie’s Charm, price dictates approach; lean to Mission of Joy

EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box using the fillies above and will key First Look in trifectas including Alpha Belle, and in superfectas with all the above and going for the gusto with fillers Dreaming of Snow (8-1), Grace Darling (8-1), Ticker Tape Rome (15-1), Mohawk Trail (20-1) and AEs Love Foreverafter (30-1) and Embrace Me (30-1).


The Skinny: I would not be surprised that when the Graded Stakes Committee makes it’s list for 2024 that this race won have a G3 as a precede. Two of the top three for us, Freedom Trail (3-1) and Mo Stash (7-2), are dropping from the graded ranks for their season’s debut while the sharp course winner, Talk of the Nation (4-1) will be tested for class here and it wouldn’t be surprised if he receives a winning grade for his efforts.

These are the top three for the linemaker as well. Mo Stash was a very good 4th in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf when last seen, in which he stalked 2-3 throughout, took the lead into the stretch and was still in front with less than a furlong to go when a coupled of Euros whizzed right on by. This is a nice colt, as is the early line favorite.

When he was last seen, he was chasing the pace in Churchill’s G@ Jockey Club Stakes before tiring on the rise and distance switch. Previously, he was 2-for-2 on grass and our comment after reviewing his winning run in the Awad at the B at A fall meet was, “under arrogant handling.” It mattered not what the early fractions were or how much ground loss was involved as he angled out 6-7 wide at headstretch. He continued that rally to win going away beneath Irad, who returns in the boot today, Both go first-Lasix here.

As stated, Talk of a Nation has recency and a win over the course and leading rider Samy Camacho accepts a return call from Shug McGaughey. Quality Road colt stalked throughout, moved to challenge at the turn when joined from the outside by the eventual runnerup who appeared outclass in the late stages after Camacho asked in earnest. He’s had three sharp works at his Payson base for this subsequently.


POTENTIAL WIN VALUE: Talk of a Nation to win at 3-1 or greater.

EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box. Superfecta wheel the three runners listed above first and second, filling the rest with rebound prospect Worthington (9-2), notch-dropping Lights of Broadway (6-1) and nicely drawn Sendero (8-1).


The Skinny: Talking about class relief; take a look at Skippylongstocking (8-5). Saffie Joseph colt gets Irad back, who won a Grade 3 with him at Gulfstream before the connections took a shot in the Pegasus World Cup. While the result was a 7th place finish, the effort was useful a he chased the pace while wide every step; was asked for his life at midturn but tired understandably, a product of trip, Grade 1 competition and a regression from a lifetime best run at today’s trip. Exaggerator colt has more tactical speed than many think and he should be in this from his inside draw and separate himself from them in the lane.

The competition figures to come from surface switching Business Model (6-1) and Classic Causeway (9-2) and Tax (4-1)–who may or may not have one more in him. He owns a Thoro Graph figure that competes with the favorite, only not recently. He worked well for a good ship-in barn and gets a switch to Paco.

Business Model should have gained conditioning from his recent prep on the Gulfstream Tapeta, breezed brilliantly before shipping north and gets a switch to Saez. Think he’s live? And so, too, Classic Causeway who won on this day last year, taking the Tampa Bay Derby after first winning the Davis prep. He has worked strongly at his Fair Grounds winter base now ships in for a go on his favorite surface picking up Julien Leparoux, who won the G1 Belmont Derby on him last summer.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Skippylongstocking

POTENTIAL WIN VALUE: Business Model or Classic Causeway to win, price dependent, with a lean toward the latter.

EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box with the runners above. Also, keying ‘Skippy’ in trifectas and superfectas, filling with Tax, well-drawn Trademark (6-1) and the ‘other Saffie’, The Reds (12-1).


The Skinny: A classic matchup of early speed vs late speed whereby each had difficult trips and where the early speed here may go unchallenged. Can’t count on that, however, since the closer has a speedy stablemate breaking from the pole position. And it all depends on the break, of course.

Shantisara (2-1) had a good pace setup last time but was forced to rally wide from far back at Gulfstream–not easy–and the winner skipped away, opening about four lengths in mid-stretch, and that’s what got her home. Further, this Brown’s trainee did not finish with a late flourish as she usually does and probably will benefit. The added sixteenth helps, too.

Meanwhile Scottish Star (6-1) stalked a moderate pace after overcoming her wide draw, went after the leader at the turn when another rival got through on her, taking some momentum and forcing her to run all out for a sustained period. After that, she lost her Endeavor prep here by a neck in a winning, but unlucky performance. Today, the speed controls belong to Luis Saez–never a bad thing.


POTENTIAL WIN VALUE: Scottish Star to win at 4-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Three-horse exacta box, these two fillies, including surging Shug rallier Surprisingly (5-1) and classy WO rough-tripper Rougir (7-2)*. Trifecta Key Shantisara first and second with both exacta fillies with all third.*

* edit made adding Rougir to exotics mix.

** Ed Note: Using The Most Probable Winner and Potential Value horses in the All-Stakes Pick Five returned $184.70 on a $24 play… $12 if players singled Skippylongstocking ($3.00) or Tapit Trice ($3.00)

Per usual, all projected exotic plays are at minimums available, straight plays in $2 units

this is a live column and will be updated throughout the weekend; the G2 Hillsborough, G3 Florida Oaks and G3 Challenger to follow

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5 Responses

  1. Saturday March 11, 2023
    Tampa Bay Downs

    Let’s take a couple of swings!

    Race 8 #7-tax (4-1) Paco, should be behind the speed in the pocket. Box with the 2,4,6

    Race 9 #7-Scotish Star(Arg) (6-1) Ran best in Grade 3 endeavor, benefits by having one under his belt. Use or box with the rested classier horses. 4,5,6


    #3- Alpha Bella looks best with first time lasix for Pletcher/Saez combo. use the 1. another FTL with the obvious favorite and yet another FTL filly for Brown/Oritz Jr. combo. 3 with the 1,10


    The pick here is #3 Classic Legacy-A step slower than a few but hasn’t taken a step backward for Bill Mott. Beautifully bred, 2 turns should be right up his alley.Ortiz Jr. has the mount. #6 Tapit Thrice is a deserving favorite and the most likely winner. Gets acid test. Use those 2 on top in first and second with the 6,7,8 to fill out your exotics.
    ————–Let’s go get dem bad guys, It’s time to build a derby roll so how about now?———————————–

  2. Love your spirit, Vino. No time like today to take shots. Really impressed with Tapit Trice but likely to bet on Classic Legacy, 7-2 as low as I will go–Irad hurts price here. Like the Oaks, yeah, Chad likely wins, but good spot to take a shot–using Motion and Stephanie’s Charm a horst to watch three back, giving one more chance here,

    Tampa probably a better fir for her style than GP. We’ll see. Great card Tampa put on today. I’m here and looking forward.
    Had a shower Friday night but sun projected for Saturday; jocks saying the course could use the rain….

    1. Been a little under the weather the last month. Bleeding ulcer, 2 endoscopy ‘s and one colonoscopy. Feeling much better and ready to roll. I hope everyone on this page is doing well and let’s root for some racing luck.

  3. So how you want them eggs boys?

    “For me, the cheap frugal old man that I am” said Sam I. Am, “from the cheap used to be bleacher seats way down on the turn, I am thinking Tapit Trice has way too much speed to lose. I hope that Classic Legacy can overtake him today, as that would render Tapit Trice a much more enticing wager in the Derby Futures Wager offered this weekend. TT is one of my pending Final Four Derby Superfacta horses along with Faustin, Slip Mahoney, and Extra Anejo. So hoping the four of them make it into the gate at CD. If not, bring up the alternate understudy cast, Rocket Can can run “Steady Eddie” type 12’s all day, Victory Formation (excusing his last), Tapit’s Conquest, and one other sleeper but the name escapes me at present. Excuse the senior moment. As Arnold said so we’ll “I’ll be back” with the name later.

    Anyhoot, my thinking is bet a little to win a lot. All about having some fun with Vino, Broadway, and all the other “Unusual Usual Suspects” hanging around the HRI comments board looking for a few uncashed flipper, stooper, your standin’ on one, could be a winner, the inquiry signs flashing tickets.

    So, enough with the small talk, spit it out ya’bastard…”bastardo in Pricci Italian” …TBD today Race 11…using Tapit Trice as a single on my SF tickets, with a Salt and Pepper game plan (going short price over long price)…employing Lisa Di. The Dirty Horse runner’s Mikey Bananas (love the name), Prairie Hawk (I served the real Uncle Sam I. Am in a Hawk misssle outfit over in NATO land in the ’60’s), and long shot price Freedom Road as well. “That’s a lot of action for only a buck eighty on a thirty cent SF wager” said the other Sam I. Am.

    Just remember this word of caution mind you going forward. When you’re talking horses, even here at HRI, “Thin ice is thin ice”. Red flags everywhere,and don’t trust nobody older than you or younger than you on Twitter neither. When you’re talkin’ about horses, you also gotta talk about the oats they have all been eating. Now I ain’t saying this would be applicable to either Vino or Broadway, but some of them oats that some might be tryin’ to sell ya’, well some of them oats may have already been through the horse. And as if that ain’t enough, then you gotta consider the Vets that some of them horsemen in question might be using. Tough game is all, but we all come back for more. Now that in itself is a long winded narrative explanation of insanity.

    “Spit it out ya’bastard” bellows out the Editor …. “It’sa” now Post Time.”

    “Riders Up!”

    Safe-a journey to all.

    P.S. The Editor can’t figure out a why I “gotta” more vowels “ina” my name and I’m Irish and he’s Italian. Go figure. Pass the Vino, Vino.


  4. I was looking for the name of a runner who went toe to toe at the wire with Tapit Trice in the past, and I already had him covered above. I think his next stop is in the Wood at the Big A, and he needs the win if he is getting into the Dance. Liking his chances however and so wish he was in this weeks futures. He has the stamina needed for the long campaign ahead.

    Slip Mahoney to Win in the Wood.

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