The March 17 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III), which highlights the track's Festival Day four-stakes card, has a long tradition of sending entrants to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and other premier 3-year-old stakes. This year will likely be no exception, as most of the drama centers around 2006 juvenile champion Street Sense, who is making his 3-year-old debut and will be squaring off against tough competitor Any Given Saturday.
The Derby will be the second start this season for Any Given Saturday, who launched his 3-year-old season with a decisive win in the Feb. 17 Sam F. Davis Stakes at the Florida track.
Breaking his maiden at first asking at 2, the son of Distorted Humor won an allowance contest at Keeneland and closed his juvenile campaign with a strong, runner-up effort in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. Owned by Kenny Trout and Bill Casner's WinStar Farm and trained by Eclipse award winner Todd Pletcher, who has been on fire lately with stakes winners, Any Given Saturday has career earnings of $164,213.
Street Sense, winner of last year's Bessemer Trust Breeders Cup Juvenile (gr. I) is looking to to make the race a St. Patrick's Day to remember for breeder/owner James Tafel and trainer Carl Nafzger.
Before the son of Street Cryposted his remarkable 10-length victory in the Breeders' Cup contest, he ran third in both the Arlington-Washington Breeders' Cup Futurity (gr. III) at Arlington Park and the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland. He has earned $1,178,200 in just five starts.
"It's a little early to say (if Street Sense is the best horse I've trained), but yes he could be," said Nafzger in a March 15 Talkin' Horses online chat. "He has to step into some big shoes, and he is doing it. If he keeps going, he could be the best."
Nafzger also trained 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic (both gr. I) winner Unbridled.
All I Can Get, the runner-up in the Sam F. Davis, is also slated to contend in the Tampa Bay Derby. The Michigan-bred son of Slew City Slewwon the Little Ones and Patrick Wood Stakes at Great Lakes Downs last year and is seeking his first graded black-type victory. Running as a homebred for Michael McQuade, his is trained by Gerald Bennett.
Other contenders in the seven-horse field are Delightful Kiss, who has won two of eight starts; Florida-breds Most Distinguished and Lisselan Muse, who both broke their maidens last time out after numerous attempts; and Optimistic Steve, a New York-bred who will be making just his third start after breaking his maiden in a Gulfstream Park contest last month.
The 2006 Tampa Bay Derby winner, Deputy Glitters, and runner up, Bluegrass Cat, both went on to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), with Bluegrass Cat taking second place in the Run for the Roses and the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III), $300,000, Tampa Bay Downs, March 17, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, approx. post 5:45 p.m. EDT
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Optimistic Steve, 116, Jose Lezcano, 15-1
2. Street Sense, 122, Calvin Borel, 4-5
3. All I Can Get, 116, Luis Gonzalez, 8-1
4. Any Given Saturday, 120, John Velazquez, 9-5
5. Most Distinguished, 116, Daniel Centeno, 15-1
6. Lisselan Muse, 116, Enrique Jurado, 30-1
7. Delightful Kiss, 116, Jeffrey Sanchez, 12-1