Watch Me Go, sent off at odds of 43-1, outdueled 86-1 longshot Crimson Knight by a neck to post a shocking upset in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) March 12 at Tampa Bay Downs. Brethren, the 1-2 favorite, came home a struggling third to suffer his first career defeat (VIDEO).
A homebred of Gilbert G. Campbell, Watch Me Go was third in his last start, beaten five lengths by Brethren in the Feb. 12 Sam F. Davis (gr. III). Prior to that, the son of West Acre scored a Jan. 23 optional claimer at Tampa by eight lengths in his season debut. Luis Garcia rode the winner for trainer Kathleen O’Connell. The dark bay/brown colt covered 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt in 1:44.25.
Had Winning Stables’ and Raymond Rech’s Crimson Knight held on to the narrow lead he had in deep stretch it would have been an even more shocking result. The Gerald Bennett trained son of Leroidesanimaux was claimed out of his last start—a two-turn turf race he won by three lengths—for $16,000.
Brethren, a two-time stakes winner who had won his previous three starts, easily took over from pacesetter Moonhanger after a quarter-mile run in :23.73. But he did not have things easy down the backstretch, as Crimson Knight challenged him every step of the way through a half-mile in :48.20 and three quarters in 1:12.60. By the time they reached the eighth pole Brethren, Crimson Knight, and Watch Me Go, who circled three-wide on the final turn, were noses apart.
Brethren finally had enough approaching the sixteenth-pole, leaving it to Crimson Knight and Watch Me Go to battle it out the rest of the way. Racing along the inside under Ronald Allen Jr., Crimson Knight had a narrow advantage in deep stretch before Watch Me Go finally stuck his neck in front only a couple strides before the wire.
“I knew this horse was something special,” Garcia said. “He was only third in the Davis but he showed me something. That was his first time stretching out and learning to relax behind a good pace. That experience helped us today.
“Brethren took a challenge from that other horse going into the turn and I was able to wait a bit longer. Then when I asked for run in the stretch he had a lot of run left. Sometimes everything works out just right.”
Watch Me Go, bred in Florida and out of the Deputy Minister mare Sabbath Song, won for the fourth time in nine starts. He won twice in six starts as a juvenile but was off the board in all four of his stakes tries. He banked $210,000 for his upset victory and upped his earnings to $311.345.
“I loved my horse, and I felt that we had the home court advantage,” said O’Connell. “You’re stabled here, you walk right out of the barn into the race, which is good. At this point in time, when he ran such a big race the last time, we nominated him to quite a few spots. Instead of just trying to find an easy spot, which there really aren’t in this type of competition, I just thought it would be the best to walk right out of our stable and over here.
“I’ll have to talk to the owner, but I’m sure right now he’s thinking roses. We were on the Kentucky Derby trail once before with Mr. Campbell and myself with Blazing Sword (in 1997), when he (became ill) and we were lucky to get him back. He ended up earning over $1 million, but he lost the whole 3-year-old year.”
The winner paid $89.40, $28.20, and $8.80. Crimson Knight returned $50 and $11.80, and filled out an exacta (9-6) worth a hefty $2,194.20. The trifecta (9-6-10) was worth a whopping $7,935.20.
Two races earlier in the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares, Denomination recorded a 12-1 upset when she bested favored Zagora by a neck. The 5-year-old Smart Strike mare recorded her first stakes win in the United States. Freddie Lenclud rode the winner, who covered 1 1/8 miles on the firm turf in 1:48.69 (VIDEO).
Christophe Clement trains Denomination for Ghislaine Head. She was bred in Kentucky by Brookdale Thoroughbreds and is out of the Storm Cat mare Dreamlike. After winning for the fifth time in 19 starts, the bay mare increased her earnings to $338,884. In 2009, Denomination won a group III stakes in France.