Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby @TAM

Last year's winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, King Guillermo was game at 49/1. Who will be on top this year? Have a look at our analysis below...
Last year's winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, King Guillermo was game at 49/1. Who will be on top this year? Have a look at our analysis below...

1 1/16th (Dirt), Tampa Bay Derby (G2), Purse $350k, 3

Last year, Victor Martinez’s King Guillermo shocked the racing world by winning the Tampa Bay Derby at odds of 49/1. It was a spectacular show of speed and rating on a surface that can at times be unforgiving. The year before that, Bill Mott’s Tacitus stormed on the scene with one of his greatest efforts ever. This race, with KY Derby Points on the line of 50-20-10-5, has the potential to produce some interesting future stars, but we couldn’t necessarily say that they have had a major impact on the “First Saturday in May.” Perhaps this year will be different…

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 My Liberty (Jky: T. Mejia/Trn: M. Mejia):

The Mejias have a mountain to climb here with a son of Tapizar that has mainly competed lower level MSW contests. He only scored in one of those events, and even though it was a win, I cannot see how that performance would make you want to back him in here. Doesn’t mean this is not a horse with ability, it’s just too deep in here.

Grade: D+


#2 Super Strong (Jky: A. Gallardo/Trn: S. Joseph):

Trainer Saffie Joseph has a plan for this son of Super Saver. He believes that he can bring him into this race after breaking his maiden down in Puerto Rico at Camarero Race Track. That effort was a win, but this is a big field on a track that the colt has never seen. The one major plus that he has going for him, besides some nice breeding, is the fact that Antonio Gallardo will be aboard. That is significant, and I truly believe can make a big difference, even though this is dirt. Simply “sending” horses still requires adept skill, and Gallardo is the king of it at Tampa. The Blinkers go on too, and you just do not know how this one will react. Could be a great price at post time.

Grade: C+


#3 Candy Man Rocket (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: B. Mott):

History is not on the side of this Bill Mott entry because there are not too many examples of those that win the Sam F. Davis (G3) @TAM, and then return to score in this race. It is very difficult to do. The last was Todd Pletcher’s Destin, whose best Triple Crown race was a 2nd place finish at Belmont. Still, this son of Candy Ride has some strong gears, and the ability to rate well under duress. He deserves to be the favorite, and with Junior Alvarado coming into ride him again, there is some strong continuity afoot. He is a power runner like Tacitus, the last Mott-trained horse to win this race 2-yrs ago, and that is high praise. All his works on the tab look solid, and if he is positioned properly, I do not see anyone in here that can best him. However, there is a history of favorites going down here in this race… 49/1… King G…

Grade: A-


#4 King of Dreams (Jky: S. Camacho/Trn: JC Avila):

Speaking of King G, here is his trainer, back again with Samy Camacho for more Tampa thrills in the Derby. Once again, this entry is owned by Victoria’s Ranch. If you don’t know that name, then surely you have heard of its owner, former MLB All-Star Victor Martinez? This colt was one of his purchases from the 2020 OBS Spring Sale last year, and he has some nice bloodlines that run through Air Force Blue. Martinez received a strong education last year about the perils of the Derby Trail, but just like he was at the plate, is patient enough to understand how to take what they give you. Last out, Avila put him in a turf race (like he did with King Guillermo), which considering the pedigree, makes a ton of sense. That yielded a win at Gulfstream Park, and got the duo thinking, once again, about a return to this race. As I said, they employ Camacho, who is once again having a strong Meet. Are we looking at another upset pick that will be massive odds come post time? Possibly… but folks in the pools might be wise to the fact that these connections have major upside. Wish them the best on both ends of the country because King G is drawn in for the Big Cap at Santa Anita.

Grade: B+


#5 Boca Boy (Jky: A. Arroyo/Trn: C. Winebaugh):

This son of prospective got some major chatter among folks during the lead up to the Sam F. Davis (G3). But it did not translate to much when it came to his odds or the results in the race—he finished 4th. That wasn’t a poor showing, but he lost the lead after being on the engine for 75% of the race. I am thinking Cheryl Winebaugh’s charge will once again not find much support in here. There is no doubt she has put together a strong “Non-Graded” slate of races, which speak to back class. But the moment is going to arrive on Saturday where he is going to be measured, weighed, and the results will speak for themselves. Can he improve enough to actually win this race? The chance is there, to be sure… But it will not be easy, and I would say even hitting the board is going to be difficult.

Grade: C+


#6 Awesome Gerry (Jky: H. Diaz/Trn: S. Joseph):

Here is another runner, similar to his gatemate that has some nice “Non-Graded” action, but when asked to step up into “G” company, could not measure up. The Holy Bull (G3), granted, was a tough race that saw Greatest Honour’s coming 2021 coming out party. So, that may not be fair to be overly harsh. The problem is that when you finish 17 lengths back, it does not bode well when it comes to moving forward. Saffie Joseph has a couple of entries in here, and this one has talent to be sure. But maybe these waters are just too tough considering the field size, and the speed that is going to be necessary to keep pace. I question those points. Hector Diaz is a solid jock, mind you, but he is not Gallardo or Camacho, when it comes to races like these. More to do, across the board, I am afraid…

Grade: C+


#7 Moonlite Strike (Jky: D. Centeno/Trn: S. Joseph):

The 3rd Saffie Joseph entry is one I have liked since his debut at Gulfstream Park West. This son of Liam’s Map made some steady progress when he shipped over to Gulfstream Park. Then, Joseph went for the gusto and sent his young colt into the lion’s den at Oaklawn. That was a gutsy move, especially considering the company in the Smarty Jones 150k. Clearly, there was not a runner that was going to best Brad Cox’s Caddo River, who is now headed to the Rebel Stakes @OP. I still believe that experience was valuable for this colt, and I would not be surprised if he won this race because of it. Some of the best news concerns Daniel Centeno, who will be riding in this spot. He just continues to be consistent, and I like the choice very much. The icing on the cake is he has worked well since coming back to Palm Meadows. I can’t wait to see what the tote reveals on Saturday. Looks to my eye to be a nice, graduated, tier wager. Sleeper class pick…

Grade: B+


#8 Hidden Stash (Jky: R. Bejarano/Trn: V. Oliver):

I have written about Victoria Oliver many times, and I am still waiting for her to break through in a really significant race. She is on the cusp at some key moments, and I do not doubt that something will happen when we least expect it. This member of her stable is a colt that was well-thought of in the Sam F. Davis, since he ended up being in the single digits. This son of Constitution, and thus, Tapit, finished 3rd, which was respectable. Nobody that invests in horses wants to hear that because that means they didn’t win… and, probably lost money. I am not sure if Oliver’s colt is fast enough to catch some in this group, but she is sending Rafael Bejarano to the post, who is probably looking forward to the warmth of TAM vs. the cold blast that he has experienced riding at Turfway. Those Payson workouts look promising, and we know her price is going to stretch above 10/1 this time around.

Grade: C+


#9 Unbridled Honor (Jky: J. Leaproux/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Trainer Todd Pletcher is after a win in the Tampa Bay Derby, as he has 2 young class risers entered. This first one is a colt out Honor Code, and we all know that bloodline is geared for some Derby Trail runs. It is inviting to think this one could jump into this deep water and score, especially since he already has a win on the track @TAM. Pletcher designed this, obviously, and it will be interesting to see if it will make an impact. It is tough to gauge how he will react, especially when looking back at those 2 races early on in the AQU Meet. Pletcher has a long history of finding talent in March, and this colt is no exception… I would say a chance to at least hit the board is there. I am a touch skeptical of those works at Palm Beach Downs… maybe look better than they really are; just a feeling inside.

Grade: B-


#10 Helium (Jky: J. Ferrer/Trn: M. Casse):

When it comes to Mark Casse and his stable, they are always competitive, and that makes him dangerous with an entry like this one. The conditioner has gone to bench… and found a colt by Ironicus that competed 2x up at Woodbine last fall. I don’t think of this sire as a “super one,” since he is pretty minor at this point. Don’t get me wrong, he was a heck of a turf router in his day, but will he ever be able to challenge the highest levels? Not sure. As for this entry, even though he was undefeated in a couple of longer sprints, that doesn’t mean he is ready to game with some of these. I think there are other places in this race to find value, and frankly, this isn’t one of them.  

Grade: C-


#11 Promise Keeper (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Here is the other half of Pletcher’s plan for Tampa Bay Derby domination. I like this runner quite a bit, and think he shows great skills that you want in a Derby Trail runner. For starters, he is well-bred by Constitution. Though I am not much of a Speed Fig guy, I have to say, 94... in the slop at Gulfstream last time on 6 Feb that he posted... was pretty impressive. I like theses connections, as Pletcher has a strong history with Winstar Farm. Getting Luis Saez to fly in for this race, and ride all of Pletcher’s entries on the undercard is a huge plus. In fact, that is what makes me think that this one can challenge Bill Mott’s entry. It will not be easy, considering that horse beat this one back in early January. Mind you, that was his first start ever, and has improved since. This might be the best price you get on this colt for the remainder of the Triple Crown Season. High hopes are afoot!

Grade: A-


#12 Sittin On Go (Jky: R. Alvarado Jr./Trn: D. Romans):

I was not a fan of Sittin On Go last time out in the Holy Bull (G3), and he did not disappoint me with a 17-length loss. One must wonder if the Iroquois (G3) will go down as his greatest win? Dale Romans can wish and hope that this colt will run better, but that will not make it so. I just do not have the sense that he is suited for this kind of company. It happens… sometimes lowering the sights makes more sense, especially after some of these losses.

Grade: C-


Join us Saturday for all of our selections! Should be a great set of races from Tampa Bay Downs!

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