St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds' Ring Weekend sprang a 14-1 upset of the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) March 8 at Tampa Bay Downs, well clear of Sam F. Davis (gr. III) winner Vinceremos in a speedy gate-to-wire score (VIDEO).
The 3-year-old Tapit gelding came off a Feb. 8 maiden victory at Gulfstream Park to take the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby in a sparkling 1:43.71 on a fast track, less than one second off the track record.
Ring Weekend and jockey Daniel Centeno went straight to the front from the inside post and stayed there in the sophomore prep, clicking through fractions of :23.62 and :46.68 while all the time increasing their advantage on the field.
"Coming out of the inside post I had to get him to start well, but when I got to the first turn it was like he got mad at me for not letting him run," Centeno said. "He wasn't rank, he was just full of himself and I had to give him his head. I knew I was clear of the field and I didn't want to get run down and I was able to get him to relax and save something for the stretch. He was looking around getting into the stretch and I was getting concerned, but when he switched leads he just took off again."
Ring Weekend returned $30, $10.20, and $8.60 while Vinceremos paid $6 and $3.80, with Surfing U S A bringing $5.20. Conquest Titan, favored at 5-2 off a runner-up finish to Cairo Prince in the Miller Lite Holy Bull (gr. II), was fourth. Matador, Cousin Stephen, Hy Kodiak Warrior, East Hall, Coltimus Prime, and Tuscan Getaway completed the order of finish.
Edgar Prado, on 120-pound highweight Vinceremos, said he couldn't fault his runner's effort.
"He did everything just right," Prado said. "We got good position tracking the group behind the leader. He was relaxed running with other horses like he usually is and when I asked him to run, he ran past horses quickly. But the winner was gone."
Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds out of the Cryptoclearance mare Free the Magic, Ring Weekend was a $310,000 purchase by St. Elias and West Point from the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by Gainesway. He now has a 2-1-2 record from six starts. The Tampa Bay Derby victory affords him 50 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Ring Weekend tried for his maiden victory four times before finally getting the job done from post 10 in a 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream test one race prior to the Tampa Bay.
"I wouldn't say my confidence was high, but I really thought he was legit," Motion said. "I took him to Saratoga to try to break his maiden, that's how much I liked him. I think gelding him got his mind on the game. I just left the ride to Daniel, I knew he could take advantage of the post position because the inside was good today and to just make sure he broke well and put him where he is comfortable.
"I think the others kind of left him alone because they possibly didn't consider him a legit horse and he got away with it. When the jockey looks behind him that much, you feel like he has a lot left. I could never have anticipated him winning like that."