Several strong invaders currently based on Florida's Atlantic Coast will travel to the state's Gulf Coast to face the local contingent March 14 in what should prove a contentious 24th edition of the $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs.
The Derby is one of three stakes on a deep 13-race program. The others are the $150,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, and the $100,000 Hillsborough Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. First post is set for 12:20 p.m. EST.
The Derby, at 1 1/16 miles, lured a field of eight. The 2-1 morning-line favorite is Dogwood Stable's Limehouse, winner of the Feb. 14 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park in his last start. Klaravich Stables' Swingforthefences and Shadwell Stable's Mustanfar, both allowance winners at Gulfstream, are next in line at 5-2 and 4-1, respectively.
Greg Kaufman's Kaufy Mate, who stepped up in a big way to take the Feb. 21 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay over heavily favored The Cliff's Edge, heads the locally based crew. He was installed at 6-1 in the morning line.
Mustanfar, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, has taken an interesting route to Tampa. In his last start Feb. 21 at Gulfstream, he raced in the Palm Beach Stakes (gr. III) at 1 1/8 miles on the grass, and finished sixth beaten only three lengths. In his previous start Jan. 24, he defeated Swingforthefences by a head in an entry-level allowance test at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.
By Unbridled, Kentucky-bred Mustanfar last fall broke his maiden at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt at Aqueduct. The colt worked four furlongs in :51.20 March 9 at Palm Meadows Training Center in preparation for the Derby.
Joe Judice, tied with T.D. Houghton atop the Tampa Bay standings as of March 11 with 62 victories, has the call on Mustanfar at 116 pounds.
Swingforthefences, trained by Rick Violette, flattered Mustanfar when he won a 1 1/8-mile entry-level allowance test by 5 1/4 lengths Feb. 14 at Gulfstream in his last start. By Boston Harbor, Kentucky-bred Swingforthefences has two wins, a second, and a third in only four career starts.
Edgar Prado, based at Gulfstream, is named to ride Swingforthefences at 116 pounds.
Limehouse was under consideration for the March 13 Florida Derby (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles, but his connections opted for the Tampa Bay Derby. The Kentucky-bred by Grand Slam won his career debut in April 2003 at Keeneland and subsequently won the Three Chimneys Juvenile Stakes and Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.
Limehouse, trained by Todd Pletcher, won the seven-furlong Hutcheson by 2 1/4 lengths in a sharp 1:22.23. Last year, he finished third to Eurosilver and Tiger Hunt in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. II) at Keeneland at the Tampa Bay Derby distance.
Pat Day is named to ride Limehouse at 118 pounds.
Kaufy Mate, a Florida-bred by Diligence
, has three wins in five career starts--one at a mile and two at 1 1/16 miles. In the Sam F. Davis, Kaufy Mate bided his time early and won by a comfortable 1 3/4 lengths in a stakes-record 1:44.60 on the sandy Tampa Bay surface.
Ramsey Zimmerman, aboard in the Sam F. Davis, is named to ride Kaufy Mate at 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the race. The colt's trainer, Kirk Ziadie, is winning races at a 46% clip at the Tampa Bay meet.
Here's the field, in post-position order, with jockeys and weights:
1 Limehouse Pat Day 118 pounds
2 Kaufy Mate Ramsey Zimmerman 122
3 Mustanfar Joe Judice 116
4 Tap Dancer T.D. Houghton 116
5 Very Formal M.D. Patrick Husbands 116
6 Swingforthefences Edgar Prado 116
7 Zakocity Jose Santos 116
8 Misguided Left Jose Castanon 116
Post time for the Derby, the 11th race on the 13-race card, is set for 5:18 p.m.
In the Oaks, Green Lantern Stables' Ender's Sister, winner of two stakes, including the Feb. 21 Suncoast at Tampa Bay, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in a field of nine. Day is named to ride for trainer George Arnold.
Ender's Sister, a Kentucky-bred by A.P. Indy
, won the Three Ring Stakes at Calder Race Course in December and has three wins and two seconds in six career starts.
Among the challengers in the nine-filly field is Cameron Express Inc.'s America America, a Kentucky-bred by Mister Baileys who made an amazing 17 starts as a 2-year-old during a campaign that took her from Gulfstream to England to Germany and back to the United States.
Trained by Frank Mourier and to be ridden by Juan Umana, America America, now with 21 starts under her belt, has faced males 11 times. Two of her three wins have come against the boys, including the Sam Houston Texas Juvenile at Sam Houston Race Park last November at the Oaks distance.
The Oaks is the ninth race on the program with a probable post time of 4:17 p.m. The Hillsborough, the 10th race on the card with a 4:47 p.m. post time, drew 14 entries but the field will be limited to 12 starters.