Conquest Stables' Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Conquest Titan and Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) winner Vinceremos head a field of 10 sophomores engaged for the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) March 8 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Conquest Titan, a son of Birdstone trained by Mark Casse, was held back from the Besilu Fountain of Youth (gr. II) to target this 1 1/16-mile event instead. He finished second to Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull, circling the field from dead last to get up late for the place. Shaun Bridgmohan returns to ride from post 5 for the trainer who won the 2012 Tampa Bay Derby with Prospective .
Casse will also enter John Oxley's Matador, fourth in the Sam Davis last time out. The Malibu Moon colt who won the Cup and Saucer Stakes last October over the Woodbine Polytrack is highly regarded by his connections, who were pleased with the way he split horses and rallied late in the local prep, winding up beaten just a length after accidentally getting hit on the nose by a rival jockey's whip. Julien Leparoux gets the mount from the 3 hole.
Vinceremos, running for WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables, came off his maiden victory at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 4 to get the job done in the Feb. 1 Sam Davis. The Pioneerof the Nile colt dug deep and would not be denied the victory over closing stablemate Harpoon; however, that one did not flatter when finishing fifth in the March 1 Gotham Stakes (gr. III). Todd Pletcher, who saddled 2013 Tampa Bay Derby winner Verrazano to victory last year, will give a leg up to Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado aboard the 120-pound highweight, who is slated to leave post 6.
Trainer Bill Kaplan has East Hall entered for Jack Hendricks and Roger Justice; the versatile Graeme Hall gelding was fourth in the Fountain of Youth, third in the OBS Championship Stakes, and third in the Gulfstream Park Derby off an allowance win courtesy of fellow Tampa Bay Derby contestant Hy Kodiak Warrior, who was disqualified in that one-mile November event.
Cabernet Racing Stables and trainer Justin Nixon ship in with Ontario-bred Coltimus Prime, a Milwaukee Brew colt who ran second in Woodbine's Display Stakes after breaking his maiden by eight lengths going seven furlongs on the Polytrack there last fall.
Debmar Stables will also send in a runner with Woodbine form; the Stroll gelding Tuscan Getaway, who took a 1 1/16-mile allowance by 1 3/4 lengths on the Woodbine Polytrack after running second to Storming Inti in the Awad Stakes last October on the Belmont Park turf. Despite recent turf and synthetic form for trainer Ricky Griffith, he broke his maiden sprinting on dirt at Delaware Park last June.
A solid group of maiden winners completes the field: St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds' Ring Weekend for trainer Graham Motion, Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton's Surfing U S A for Pletcher, Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Cousin Stephen (third in the Sam Davis), and Mar Racing Stable's Hy Kodiak Warrior for trainer Marcial Navarro.
The Tampa Bay Derby is worth 85 total points on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), with 50 going to the winner.
$350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II, Race 11, approximate post 5:25 p.m. EST) 3YOs, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Ring Weekend (KY), D. Centeno, 116, H G Motion
2. Surfing U S A (KY), J. Lexcano, 116, T A Pletcher
3. Matador (ON), J.R. Leparoux, 116, M E Casse
4. Coltimus Prime (ON), G. Boulanger, 116, J J Nixon
5. Conquest Titan (KY), S. Bridgmohan, 116, M E Casse
6. Vinceremos (KY), E.S. Prado, 120, T A Pletcher
7. East Hall (FL), J.C. Leyva, 116, W A Kaplan
8. Cousin Stephen (KY), J. Castellano, 116, C C Brown
9. Hy Kodiak Warrior (KY), G. Saez, 116, M Navarro
10. Tuscan Getaway (KY), J. Rocco, Jr., 116, R Griffith