One of the top Kentucky Derby prep races this Saturday takes horse racing bettors to Tampa Bay Downs for the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. The race is a crucial stop on the schedule for several 3-year-old contenders vying for a spot in the Derby field.
2017 Tampa Bay Derby
The Tampa Bay Derby is a Grade 2 stakes race open to 3-year old thoroughbreds and the total prize purse for this year's event has been set at $350,000. It will be contested on the dirt track at Tampa Bay Downs over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
Famed trainer Todd Pletcher should have a strong vested interest in the outcome of Saturday's main event with two of the top probable entries in the field. I am going to go with Third Day as my top choice following a successful 3-year old debut in the ungraded Just One More Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 8. The Kentucky-bred colt bested a field that also included Barry Karafin Bets and Basha on the dirt over a distance of a mile.
The son of Bernardini's only run as a juvenile also resulted in a victory in a Maiden Special Weight race at Monmouth last July. Despite the relative lack of racing experience, Third Day comes into this race ranked No. 318 by Horse Racing Nation with a rating of 6.95.
I am going to box Pletcher's Tapwrit in an exacta bet for this race as my second choice on the board. This Kentucky-bred colt is the highest-ranked entry in the field at No. 293 and his current rating stands at 7.05. He opened his 3-year-old campaign with a solid second-place finish in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay on Feb. 11 at 9/1 closing odds behind favored McCraken at a distance of 1 1/16 miles. He also won the ungraded Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream at a distance of 1 mile in his final race as a juvenile.
A pedigree of Tapit with a progeny traced back to AP Indy, Tapwrit has placed in the money in three of four events with a more impressive run each time. I also like that fact that he has already run well at this track, which gives him another edge for Saturday.
Rounding out my trifecta play for this year's Tampa Bay Derby is trainer Mark Casse's State of Honor. He is one of two probable entries not rated by HRN, but that could change following the results of this race. What caught my eye with this Canadian-bred colt was his third-place finish at Tampa Bay Downs in the Sam F. Davis back in early February at 11/1 odds. He opened this season with a third-place finish in the ungraded Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream at a distance of 1 mile to finish in the money in all five of his first career starts.
State of Honor spent his entire juvenile campaign racing in Canada at Woodbine, closing things out with a third-place finish in the ungraded Coronation Futurity Stakes on Nov. 13 at an extended distance of 1 1/8 miles.