Sam F. Davis winner Bluegrass Cat heads field for Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby.

Sam F. Davis winner Bluegrass Cat heads field for Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby.

Tampa Bay Downs

Bluegrass Cat Bounds into Tampa Bay Derby

Bluegrass Cat, one of trainer Todd Pletcher's leading Triple Crown candidates, makes his second start of the 2006 season at Tampa Bay Downs in the $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) Saturday.

The 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby, which attracted a field of nine, is one of four stakes on the 13-race program. The $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. III), and the $75,000 Turf Dash are the other stakes.

National pundits tout Bluegrass Cat as a serious Kentucky Derby presented by Yum Brands! (gr. I) threat. He already boasts a win over the Tampa Bay oval, starting the season with a workmanlike win in the $125,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes Feb. 18. As a juvenile, the bay son of Storm Cat won the Remsen (gr. II) at Aqueduct and had victories in two other starts. His only loss came in his maiden debut at Churchill Downs in June.

Bluegrass Cat, whom Pletcher described as "dead on" for his Tampa Bay return, worked five furlongs Sunday morning in his final prep workout in 1:01 2/5 at Palm Meadows Training Center.

Although Bluegrass Cat figures to be a prohibitive favorite, there are other contenders.

Deputy Glitters, a son of Deputy Commander, was runner-up in the Sam F. Davis for trainer Thomas Albertrani, finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind Bluegrass Cat at odds of 63-1.

Little Cliff, conditioned by Nick Zito, has won two races, including a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Churchill Nov. 13. He recorded a fourth-place finish in the Sam F. Davis, 5 3/4 lengths behind Bluegrass Cat. The dark bay son of Gulch worked Monday morning in a quick 1:00 3/5 for the five-furlong distance at Gulfstream Park.

The Kathleen O'Connell trainee, El Lobo, should also draw interest as a winner of his last two races at Tampa.

$250,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III, Race 11, 5:15 p.m.), 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. El Lobo (FL), 116, Daniel Centeno
2. Bluegrass Cat (KY), 122, John Velazquez
3. Storm Treasure (KY), 116, Mike Smith
4. Winnies Tigger Too (FL), 116, Joseph Rocco
5. Little Cliff (KY), 116, Jeremy Rose
6. Deputy Glitters (KY), 116, Jose Lezcano
7. Irish Majesty (KY), 116, Javier Castellano
8. Ice N Lemon (KY), 116, Cornelio Velasquez
9. Reaffirmed (FL), 116, Robert Landry