Trainer Ian Wilkes has Nicklaus Way in the Tampa Bay Stakes.

Trainer Ian Wilkes has Nicklaus Way in the Tampa Bay Stakes.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Nicklaus Way Seeks Graded Win in Tampa Bay

Ian Wilkes trainee comes into turf contest off an allowance win over course Jan. 8.

Fresh off a victory over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course, Nicklaus Way goes in search of his first graded stakes win for trainer Ian Wilkes Feb. 1 in the $150,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT).

Nicklaus Way faces 11 opponents in the Tampa Bay, which immediately follows the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds on the Saturday card in Florida. Other contenders for the 1 1/16-mile grass test, race 10 on the program with a scheduled post time of 4:55 p.m. EST, are former Canadian turf champion Riding the River, Salto, Philly Ace, and Super Chunky.

A 5-year-old gelding by Bluegrass Cat  owned by Lothenbach Stables, Nicklaus Way closed fast after stalking the pace in an allowance/optional claiming race at one mile Jan. 8, prevailing by a neck over Super Chunky in his first start over the Tampa course. Nicklaus Way, who had not started for two months prior to the win, has had just one previous graded stakes appearance. He finished fourth in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) on dirt June 29.

Quincy Hamilton, who rode the dark bay gelding for the first time, has the return call for Wilkes. They drew post 8 and will carry 116 pounds, six fewer than the top-weighted Riding the River and Guys Reward.

Euro Stable's Super Chunky pressed the pace last time and snatched the lead in the stretch before being edged by Nicklaus Way. He was disqualified to fourth, however, for drifting out and bumping. The 8-year-old Put It Back gelding is a veteran of 41 starts including seven wins and earnings of $424,838. Super Chunky was third in the Japan Racing Stakes at Laurel Park two months earlier for trainer Kenneth Cox. Erick Rodriguez rides from gate 2.

Multiple graed stakes winner Riding the River, Canada's 2012 male turf Sovereign Award winner, looks to snap a five-race losing streak going back to the one-mile King Edward Stakes (Can-IIT) last June at Woodbine. The 7-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding is to be saddled for the first time by Seth Benzel for owner Commonwealth Stable.

Riding the River, with Gary Boulanger to ride, has not raced since finishing seventh when well-bet in the Japan Racing Stakes Nov. 9.

Salto, an Irish homebred owned by Wertheimer and Frere and trained by Todd Pletcher, posted a 97 Beyer figure when missing by a head as the 17-10 choice in the one-mile El Prado Stakes in his most recent start Dec. 28 on a yielding Gulfstream Park turf. He could well be favored again after an allowance win at Gulfstream prior to the El Prado in October.

The bay 6-year-old son of Pivotal was won two of eight starts with three placings since he was turned over to Pletcher after racing in France for Freddie Head. Luis Saez is aboard for the first time.

Also likely to draw attention is Brushwood Stable homebred Philly Ace, who has every right to improve following a closing fourth in the El Prado, his first start in 13 months. The 6-year-old Smart Strike gelding won the Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder Casino & Race Course in his prior start Nov. 30, 2012, and ran third in the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIIT) before that. Trainer Christophe Clement tabs Angel Serpa to ride.

Seal Cove, trained by Shug McGaughey for Stuart Janney III, is three-for-four at the Tampa Bay distance but has not started since taking a one-mile allowance/optional claimer at Saratoga Race Course July 24 on a good inner turf. A six-time winner from 11 lifetime starts, the 6-year-old gray/roan gelded son of Strong Hope is to be ridden by Joe Rocco Jr.

Other possibilities in an evenly matched field include graded stakes winner Guys Reward, Looking Cool, and Humble and Hungry.

$150,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 10, 4:55 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Guys Reward (KY), A Jaen, 122, D L Romans
2. Super Chunky (FL), E D Rodriguez, 116, K M Cox
3. Seal Cove (KY), J Rocco Jr., 116, C R McGaughey III
4. Riding the River (KY), G Boulanger, 122, S Benzel
5. Looking Cool (KY), J R Leparoux, 120, C A Nafzger
6. Salto (IRE), L Saez, 116, T A Pletcher
7. Golden Sabre (ON), E S Prado, 116, M Pierce
8. Nicklaus Way (KY), Q Hamilton, 116, I R Wilkes
9. Philly Ace (PA), A Serpa, 120, C Clement
10. Humble and Hungry (KY), A A Gallardo, 120, I Correas IV
11. Dannhauser (VA), L Panici, 116, K O'Connell
12. Mellow Fellow (KY), V Lebron, 116, T Richardson