Tampa Bay Derby 2022 Entries: Brian Lynch's Classic Causeway a deserving favorite

Two years ago, it was Juan Carlos Avila's King G, who rocketed home at odds of 49/1 for owner Victor Martinez. Last year, it was high-priced Helium at 15/1 for Mark Casse ... Will it be another box car that gets home? Brian Lynch's Classic Causeway stands in the way according to this preview by turfwriter J.N. Campbell.
Two years ago, it was Juan Carlos Avila's King G, who rocketed home at odds of 49/1 for owner Victor Martinez. Last year, it was high-priced Helium at 15/1 for Mark Casse ... Will it be another box car that gets home? Brian Lynch's Classic Causeway stands in the way according to this preview by turfwriter J.N. Campbell.

Race 11: 1 1/16th (Dirt), Tampa Bay Derby (G2), Purse $350k, 3 (Saturday)

The Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is one of those contests that has brought enormous value to bettors when it comes to cashing at the windows. Find the right pick … make the proper bet … and you could be looking at a major score. Just last year, it was HOF trainer Mark Casse’s 15/1 shot, Helium, that sucked all of the air out of the favorites. Flashback 2 years ago, and it was Victor Martinez’s King Guillermo that shocked the racing world by winning at the boxcar price of 49/1. That effort was just a spectacular show of speed and rating on a surface that can at times be unforgiving. This race, with KY148 “Points” on the line to the tune of 50-20-10-5, has the potential to produce some interesting future stars. Still, winners cannot necessarily say that they have had a major impact on the “First Saturday in May.” Perhaps this time around will be different…

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Grantham (Jky: S. Camacho/Trn: M. Maker):

The last time we saw this son of Declaration of War (a sire who resides in Japan), he was trying to catch Early Voting, Un Ojo, and Gilded Age … no avail. Of course, many a ‘capper looks at that contest as a “bridge race,” and it will be interesting to see how Mike Maker’s colt ships down to Tampa. He gets local man-about-town Samy Camacho, who rode King G to victory 2 years ago (notice that glorious smile of his in the photo above). Three Diamonds Farm has interests in some quality routers, and this one has the potential to be a good one … maybe down the road. Chance for one of the minors seems possible, but not probable …

Grade: C+


#2 Trademark (Jky: D. Centeno/Trn: V. Oliver):

Last year, trainer Vicky Oliver brought Hidden Stash to the Derby at Tampa, and he did not disappoint. That is still that one’s best performance. Now, she comes back with another colt that utterly failed to impress in the prep for this G2, the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis S. At odds of 27/1, maybe that was the proper price on the tote. The son of Upstart did score 2x back at Churchill, but that was in November. The excuses can be laid to rest that the rust is off, and here is the opportunity to outrun his odds once again. Trusting in Dan Centeno is not something I would spurn because he is a rider with genuine ability. Thus, a real advantage can be knowing the Tampa MT like this pilot does. However, this gelding, who was bred by the former governor of the state of Kentucky, Brereton Jones, might not be ready for this grand a stage … More to come later in his career, perhaps …

Grade: C+


#3 Happy Boy Rocket (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: B. Mott):

In ’21 it was Candy Man Rocket for HOF trainer Bill Mott in the TBD, and now we have this booster that is looking for some Derby Trail glory. Frank Fletcher watched his race favorite go to pieces as the pace evaporated last year (his entry was the "chalk" after winning the Sam Davis), and he is hoping for a much better time of it in '22. The Runhappy line is certainly churning out its share of winners, despite being what many considered a sprint sire. “Mattress Mack” is singing his former runner’s praises … from the rooftops and the shed. Meanwhile, back at the Tampa Cave, Mott has this “Happy” ready for action, after his colt broke his maiden at Gulfstream in the customary MSW60k ranks. Junior Alvarado, Mott’s regular guy, is aboard once again. He suffered a terrible spill last weekend, so it is great to see him back in the saddle. Coming up to Tampa, his best attribute is that late kick, and he is going to need every bit of it on Saturday afternoon. This is Mott we are talking about, so you can bet this one is going to be prepared.

Grade: B+


#4 Classic Causeway (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: B. Lynch):

Let’s just get straight to the point … Brian Lynch’s colt by Giant’s Causeway is the real deal, especially if he can improve on that last performance in the Sam Davis S. What power, energy, and drive that he exhibited throughout that 1 1/16th ... it was impressive, to say the least. Lynch is bringing him back to have another go at the MT, and he is handing the piloting duties once again to talented villain, Irad Ortiz. The 3-yr-old is probably facing a stiffer test this time around, but he is no less capable than when he was last in-town. If his talent and level of fitness is where it should be (and it is …), then he wins … convincingly! We are looking at one of Lynch’s most promising runners … maybe ever. This homebred, owned partly by Kentucky West, also has the pedigree lines to get the “Classic” distances; hence the name …

Grade: A


#5 Giant Game (Jky: J. Talamo/Trn: D. Romans):

Trainer Dale Romans opted to skip the Fountain of Youth (G2), and instead, roll north to Tampa Bay. There is no question that West Point Thoroughbreds and the Albaugh Family know their business when it comes to horse racing. This colt by Giant’s Causeway, a half to his gate mate to the left, has something to prove this time around. Romans really is on the ropes when it comes to his career, and frankly, he needs a big score. His star has not shone all that brightly of late, and here is the chance to spring a major upset. Count on Joe Talamo’s mount being double-digits come post time, and the team will need to greatly improve on their Holy Bull (G3) effort … which was not much of one, to be honest. Maybe too much to do in this spot …

Grade: C


#6 Golden Glider (Jky: A. Gallardo/Trn: M. Casse):

The ‘cappers that took a stand against this Mark Casse entry were correct … they said that the son of Ghostzapper was not ready for the Sam F. Davis S. competition. Evidently it was true ... that OC75n1x that he ran in back on 7 Jan. was a workout … for him ... a merry-go-round. Now, coming back to the scene of his best score, and his worst defeat, it is hard to know just how this colt will react. There is a major factor though that we must consider …. This is HOF conditioner Casse we are talking about, and last year he won this contest with an entry that not many considered a contender—Weyburn. Working well at the Casse home court, expect this one to fire … there is ability present, mind you. Plus, Antonio Gallardo gets aboard for the 3rd time in-a-row. He can be a very dangerous jockey on his own turf. Look out for Casse!

Grade: B+


#7 Strike Hard (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: M. Williams):

 The Williams Barn does not get to step on the “G-Stage” all that often, so this is quite a moment for them. This experienced son of Flashback has loads of talent, and that was on full display in winning an OC75kn1x at Gulfstream back in early December, followed by a 2nd place ending in the Mucho Macho Man S. $150 on New Year’s Day. The 3-yr-old did not run all that poorly in his next start, the Sam D., but let’s face it, the winner had the race in-hand by the 1st call. Now, coming back to TAM, Williams makes a key rider switch, and goes with Luis Saez. This is stellar news, and what we call a major upgrade. Maybe Saez can get the best out of his mount because it is going to take that to win this race. If he hits the board, it would be considered a major victory, I think …

Grade: C+


#8 Major General (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Would you wager on a runner in a Grade 2 that hasn’t been seen, hide nor hair, since mid-September? Well, what if I said that entry was coming from the Todd Pletcher Stable? That might give pause … and then some … WinStar and Siena Farms have waited, just like the rest of us, for this son of Constitution to make it back. His ’22 debut is not going to be an easy one, but at least there is some continuity with Javier Castellano coming in to take the mount. He was on the then-2-yr-old back at Churchill Downs for the 1st derby Prep race on the calendar—the Grade 3 Iroquois. It was an impressive performance that night, and I am sure that this one will take money … after all, this is a Pletcher. Still, the past is prologue, and even though he is currently 2/2 on the track in his career, he still needs a race.

Grade: B


#9 Shipsational (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: E. Barker):

Conditioner Ed Barker has only 3 “Graded Stakes” entries this past year … but no matter, he is just treating the G2 Tampa Bay Derby like any other race. They still make the walk over from the barn, are saddled, and go through the post parade … not much is different, right? Well, this race is majorly significant, and we are going to see what his colt by Midshipman is made of when the chips are down. This 3-yr-old was a popular pick among the contrarian betting crowd in the Sam D., and their selection at odds of 8/1 did not disappoint. He ended up 2nd to Lynch’s dream, and now has a chance to improve on that effort. There is the natural question of whether this purchase from the OBS March Sale in 2021 was worth it at $210k. What we do know is that Iris Smith Stable is happy to have Manny Franco to take the mount. He rides regularly at NYRA, and can handle race day pressure. Will the colt respond? His works say so … doubtful he will be 8/1 again …

Grade: B


#10 Belgrade (Jky:H. Diaz/Trn: G. Motion):

Can you believe that it was over a decade ago that Graham Motion won the Kentucky Derby with long shot Animal Kingdom? The Maryland-based trainer has had some good ones over the past 2 decades, but none surprised us from the AW surface like AK. In ’22, the “Master of Herringswell” is back with a son of Hard Spun that began his career with Brendan Walsh. The Pascarellas made the … motion … to … Motion … and he picked up a win first-out ... thank goodness. Whew, pressure … With a pair of races under his saddle as of this minute, this colt looks promising because of his bloodline. Like John Hammond of Jurassic Park fame, they “spared no expense” when it came to his purchase price, which was a whopping $700k. That is some serious cash being wired during the Keeneland January Sale earlier this year. With TAM rider Hector Diaz in the irons, Motion is going to try and stump us chums again like he did back in ’11. If this high-priced colt is in-the-money, and doesn’t win, is that a failure? Stay tuned …

Grade: B-


#11 Money Supply (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: C. Brown):

Right now, in the Thoroughbred breeding shed news, sire Practical Joke is not that … a joke … He is garnering respect, and his offspring are doing quite well. Trainer Chad Brown is going to try and “Shoot the Class Moon” (my made-up phrase) with this “KS” runner for Seth Klarman. His only race was a maiden victory on debut, and that was quite a score from off-the-pace in a MSW34k. The deep end is here, and I am sure Brown is prepared as he can be. He is going with Jose Ortiz, who happened to be @TAM for that 1st voyage. Maybe he can provide some continuity? It is really tough to gauge how well this colt will brave the strong class test, and the crowd, which is sure to be loud. Despite the celebrated connections, you might wager on this one, at your own risk.

Grade: C+


#12 Spin Wheel (Jky: J. Castanon/Trn: R. Arnold):

Drawn towards the far side of the world is this intriguing son of Hard Spun. Rusty Arnold can hold his own against the “super trainers” of this land, and it is great to see this colt enter in a spot like this one. Even though Arnold’s runner did not acquit himself well when it came to the finish in the Holy Bull (G3), it was still a solid try (6th). That was quite a layoff that he came off of at Gulfstream, and don’t forget that was the 1st time he had seen competition since Churchill in late November in a high-level MSW120k. Jesus Castanon replaces Julien Leparoux, and he is going to have his hands full with that extreme post position. His only hope is to take him back, and maybe the fractions will be blazing … if they aren’t, then this 3-yr-old will be in trouble.

Grade: B-


Join us Saturday for all of J.N. Campbell’s selections on Tampa Bay Derby Day! Should be a great set of races from Tampa Bay Downs! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!

Kentucky Derby 2022