Padua Stables’ Odysseus, who looked like a beaten horse turning for home, re-rallied during an incredible stretch run and nosed out Schoolyard Dreams in the final jump to win a thrilling edition of the $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) (VIDEO) March 13 at Tampa Bay Downs.
A romping allowance winner last month over the same strip, Odysseus came into the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby with a buzz and was bet down to the 2-1 second choice, with Todd Pletcher’s star Super Saver going off as the 3-2 favorite in his much-anticipated 3-year-old debut.
With Ramon Dominguez aboard, Super Saver went straight to the front and led the field around in fractions of :23.52, and :47.02 while Odysseus had a perfect stalking trip in second under Rajiv Maragh. The complexion of the race changed, however, when Schoolyard Dreams made a huge move under Jeremy Rose around the second turn. Coming from the outside, Schoolyard Dreams circled past Odysseus and in doing so, seemed to throw the lightly-raced colt off his stride.
Gleam of Hope also went by Odysseus, who was fourth when they turned for home and seemingly a beaten horse. Meanwhile, Schoolyard Dreams had struck the front and was preparing for a stretch duel with Gleam of Hope on the outside and Super Saver along the rail.
But Odysseus somehow managed to regain his best run, first rallying towards the outside while slightly bumping with Gleam of Hope, then ducking back inside while still trying to find a clear path through traffic. He was never in front of Schoolyard Dreams until the final jump when he stuck a nose in front at the wire. The final time was 1:44.131 over a fast main track.
Schoolyard Dreams was a hard-luck runner-up, a half-length in front of Super Saver, who ran a solid race off a lengthy layoff.
"Getting past the wire I said to Jeremy, 'I think you won it Jeremy'," said Maragh. "He thought so too. So it was a surprise when they put our number up.
"We got exactly the position I wanted early and like last time he relaxed for me. I wanted to wait with him and not hook anybody too soon so when we got to the far turn I asked him to move up and I thought we were in charge but suddenly a horse swept by us on the outside. I was surprised and so was the horse and he hesitated and were suddenly behind horses we might have been in front. But he showed his class and got running again.
"I wasn't sure we were going find a path and then it opened up just a few yards from the finish and like I said I didn't think we had won. He is just getting better and better."
Odysseus is a son of Malibu Moon—Persimmon Hill, by Conquistador Cielo. He was purchased for $250,000 at the OBS selected sale of 2-year-olds in training. Runner-up in his only start as juvenile, he is undefeated in three starts this season. The chestnut colt broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park Jan. 14 and then rolled to a 15-length allowance score at Tampa Feb. 17.
Now 3-1-0 from four starts, Odysseus has earned $219,920. He was bred in Kentucky by Haymarket Farm and Lakemont Stable. Satish Sanan owns the good-looking colt, who could be pointed toward the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct April 3 with an eye on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 1.
“I think the sky could be the limit with this horse," said trainer Tom Albertrani said. "He showed how he’s got such determination to win. If I used my best judgment in his first race, I probably should have ran him a little longer than three-quarters (in his first start), and he’d still be undefeated. He’s just a very game horse, and he’s really got a will to win.
"That’s our target, to get this horse to the Derby. We think he’s certainly good enough to belong with that group, but we’ll see how he trains in the next two weeks and make some decisions. We’ll see if we need to run him back again or just sit and wait. It takes a lot of pressure off to have the graded earnings at this point."
Odysseus paid $6, $3.40, and $2.40. The exacta (7-5) returned $33.80 and the trifecta (7-5-6) was $77.40.
WinStar Farm's Super Saver was making his first start since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs last Nov. 28. He will likley be pointed toward the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) April 3 for his next start.
Schoolyard Dreams, also runner-up in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) last month, is trained by Derek Ryan, who won the Tampa Bay Derby last year with Musket Man.
Uptowncharlybrown finished fourth, followed by Slammy Boy, and Tuvia's Force.