Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Florida has its most important card of the year Saturday, March 11. Its feature race is the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race for three-year-olds that offers 50-20-15-10-5 Road to the Kentucky Derby points to its top five finishers. It is the second and last Kentucky Derby prep race at Tampa Bay Downs, and its profile has steadily risen since 1981 to become one of the most eagerly awaited Derby preps of the year.
The race is open to three-year-olds, and the 2023 edition drew a field of 12 colts and geldings to compete. The winner is virtually guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby, and even its top few finishers put themselves in a good spot heading into the final round of 100-point preps closer to the Run for the Roses.
Several Tampa Bay Derby winners have made good accounts during the triple crown season in the 21st century. Street Sense (2007) won the Run for the Roses, and Musket Man (2009) ran third behind Mine That Bird. Super Saver, third in the 2010 edition of the Tampa Bay Derby, won the Kentucky Derby. More recently, Tapwrit (2017) carried his momentum to a Belmont win, and Destin (2016) was nosed out in the final jewel.
Tampa Bay Derby 2023 Information
Race Date: Saturday, March 11, 2023
Track: Tampa Bay Downs
Post Time: 2:15 p.m. Pacific Standard Time
Distance: 1 1/16 miles
Where to Watch: FanDuel TV
Where to Bet: TVG.com and FanDuel Racing
The 2023 Tampa Bay Derby drew a field of 12 runners when the track took entries on March 8. This is the field including posts, trainers, jockeys, and morning lines.
|Saffie Joseph, Jr.
|Classic Car Wash
|Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|Hector Diaz, Jr.
|Dreaming of Kona
|Saffie Joseph, Jr.
Tampa Bay Derby Prep Results
Tampa Bay Downs has only one other points race, the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3), which was run on February 11. Although winner Litigate did not return for the second Derby prep in Oldsmar, seven of the horses who crossed the wire behind him returned to the fray for the Tampa Bay Derby. Groveland came closest, tracking close to the pace throughout and chasing to finish second beaten only 1 1/4 lengths as a 21-1 outsider last month. Others who return from the Sam F. Davis include Classic Car Wash (3rd), Classic Legacy (4th), Zydeceaux (5th), Dreaming of Kona (7th), Prairie Hawk (9th), and Champions Dream (11th).
The only other horse to come in from a stakes attempt is Lord Miles. He was last seen finishing sixth in the Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park, eleven lengths behind Rocket Can. Rocket Can went on to finish second in the Fountain of Youth (G2) behind the champion Forte last Saturday.
The other four runners prepared in allowance company. Tapit Trice, likely one of the favorites in the Tampa Bay Derby, most recently won a first-level allowance at Gulfstream on February 4 by eight lengths over Shesterkin, who also tries the Tampa Bay Derby. Freedom Road comes out of a sprint allowance win at Tampa Bay Downs on January 21, while Mikey Bananas last finished second in a one-mile and 40-yard allowance over the local dirt on February 12.
Tampa Bay Derby Contenders
These are the 12 horses who have entered the Tampa Bay Derby
Lord Miles: This late-running son of Curlin impressed on debut in a sprint at Gulfstream and came close in the Mucho Macho Man over the one-turn mile but disappointed in the Holy Bull (G3) next out after a poor start. That was his first start with blinkers, which he takes off for this race. The pedigree suggests that a two-turn trip should suit him, though the rail in such a big field may prove tough and he has yet to prove whether he can handle the love-it-or-hate-it Tampa surface. Demand a price.
Classic Car Wash: He took a class rise in the Sam F. Davis after wins in an optional claiming maiden race and a florida-bred allowance at Gulfstream. But he chased on well to finish third in that stakes debut despite being further off the pace than usual. His pace versatility should give jockey Jaramillo options for this horse trained by Mark Casse, a two-time winner of this race.
Classic Legacy: The Sam F. Davis was his first try at two turns, and he closed well to finish fourth in that race. His maiden-breaker suggests that he does not need to be that far off the pace, and it is interesting that he gets a jockey change to big-race dynamo Irad Ortiz, Jr. for this race. From a form perspective, he also has upside coming second off a layoff.
Groveland: His stalking style plays well at Tampa Bay Downs, and his record proves he loves the footing at this track. He has run well with high-percentage local rider Daniel Centeno in his last two starts, as well. However, it is a concern that trainer Eoin Harty clicks so rarely in graded stakes races. He is a clear choice to include in the exotics but don’t take him on top at a short price.
Mikey Bananas: With seven starts so far, he is the most experienced horse in the field, though he hasn’t visited the winners’ circle since a baby race on the Presque Isle Downs Tapeta in June of last year. He does like Tampa’s surface and finished second in his first two-turn dirt try last out, but even his recent form suggests that this Derby prep crowd may be a little too fast for him.
Tapit Trice: This $1.3 million yearling showed promise last year when winning second-out over the Aqueduct mud in December and dazzled with an eight-length stalk-and-pounce win in a one-mile allowance at Gulfstream last month. Luis Saez returns to the irons off of that win. He has yet to prove himself on the Tampa surface, but his pedigree suggests he’ll have no trouble getting two turns. He is tactical enough to work a trip, and his last two races suggest he is easily fast enough.
Freedom Road: A debut winner and stakes-placed on the mid-Atlantic circuit last year, he looked smart when rallying from last in a six-horse field to win a sprint allowance at Tampa on January 21. He was well beaten in his only two-turn try, but that came last August, and he has had some time to mature. At a likely square price, he has upside to move forward in his second start of the year.
Dreaming of Kona: The winner of the Mucho Macho Man by disqualification on January 1, he faded to a well-beaten seventh in the Sam F. Davis last out, his first try going two turns. His pedigree is a mixed bag for the distance, and his trainer Aldana Speith’s low win percentage in two-turn races is another serious concern.
Shesterkin: This lightly-raced son of Violence is going the right way for trainer Todd Pletcher. He won his debut by open lengths on December 31, then finished second behind well-regarded stablemate Tapit Trice in an allowance last out. He showed tactical speed in that outing, and his pedigree appeals strongly for the step up in trip. It is also a positive that Pletcher does well with horses going first-time blinkers, a move Shesterkin makes here.
Champions Dream: Another entrant from Mark Casse, it is interesting to see this stalking type come back in the Tampa Bay Derby, given that he was eased last out in the Sam F. Davis. He ran a close second in the Pasco over this track two back, suggesting that he can handle it on a good day, and his pedigree screams that he is going to want more distance. He needs a significant step forward from the Pasco, but he returns just a month later from a start too bad to be believed, suggesting he could provide long-shot value.
Zydeceaux: He flattened out to fifth after setting the pace in the Sam F. Davis last out and comes back for more. He clearly handles the course, as he led at every call in the seven-furlong Pasco two starts back. However, this is a tough assignment: he looks the speed of the speed, but he won’t get to crawl, and his pedigree suggests he’ll be better off going one turn rather than two.
Prairie Hawk: After being bumped at the break in the Sam F. Davis, he didn’t get the forward position he prefers, and he faded badly in the lane. His two-back race was a solid effort over the local dirt, but that came in just a four-horse field. He will have plenty of company up front, and he has to race from a challenging far-outside post. That worked out poorly for him in the Sam F. Davis and may not work much better this time, either.
Tampa Bay Derby Past Winners Prep Races
Recent Tampa Bay Derby winners have come out of a range of races, levels, and even surfaces. Three of the last 10 have come from the local prep for this race, the Sam F. Davis. Destin (2016) and Classic Causeway (2022) came out of victories in that race, and Tapwrit (2017) was last seen finishing second in that race.
Four other recent winners came out of stakes races, though only one of those came out of a victory. Helium (2021) was last seen winning the Display at Woodbine and made his three-year-old debut in the Tampa Bay Derby. Carpe Diem (2015) was most recently second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Quip (2018) had been seventh in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), and King Guillermo (2020) came out of a third-place finish in the Pulpit at Gulfstream. Note that Helium came out of a win on Tapeta, and King Guillermo’s last start came on the lawn.
Three other recent winners made their stakes debut in the Tampa Bay Derby. Verrazano (2013) came out of an allowance victory at Gulfstream. Two others faced winners for the first time in the Tampa Bay Derby after a maiden special weight win. Ring Weekend (2014) had graduated in a 1 1/16-mile dirt race at Gulfstream a month before the race, while Tacitus had gotten his diploma in a dirt mile at Aqueduct the previous November.
Tampa Bay Derby Undercard
The Tampa Bay Derby will be run as the 11th of 12 races on Saturday’s card, the richest and most important of the Tampa Bay Downs meet. The card features four other stakes races in addition to the feature: the $75,000 Columbia for sophomore turf milers, the $100,000 Challenger (G3) for older dirt routers, the $225,000 Hillsborough (G2) for filly and mare turf routers, and the $200,000 Florida Oaks (G3) for sophomore filly turf routers. With big fields and big purses all day long, make sure to watch all day long on FanDuel TV and place your bets with FanDuel and TVG!
Tampa Bay Downs
Tampa Bay Downs is located in Oldsmar, Florida, just a twenty-minute drive from the center of Tampa, Florida. There has been a track in Oldsmar since 1926. It first ran the West Coast Jockey Club meeting at Tampa Downs, referring to Tampa’s position on the west coast of the Florida peninsula. It has been called Tampa Bay Downs since 1980.
The track is a popular winter destination for both east coast and midwestern trainers. Now known for its meticulously groomed turf course, which was installed in 1998, Tampa Bay Downs has a dirt course that tends to be deeper and sandier than some other dirt courses. This means that it gets a horse fit and can sometimes favor horses-for-the-course.
As the Tampa Bay Derby has increased in importance, its purse has been trending upward as well. Originally a $50,000 race when it started in 1981, the purse was doubled to six figures in 1983 and reached its current $400,000 level in 2018, the year after Belmont winner Tapwrit took the crown.
Tampa Bay Derby FAQ
Q: When is the Tampa Bay Derby?
A: The Tampa Bay Derby will be run Saturday, March 11, 2023, with a scheduled post time of 5:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Q: Where is the Tampa Bay Derby?
A: The Tampa Bay Derby is run at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Florida.
Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Tampa Bay Derby?
A: Todd Pletcher has won this race five times since 2004, most recently in 2017, with eventual Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit. Pletcher is represented this year by Tapit Trice and Shesterkin.
Q: Who is the favorite for the Tampa Bay Derby?
A: Between his impressive allowance win and his trainer’s strong record in the Tampa Bay Derby, expect Tapit Trice to be the favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby. He has been named the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Groveland may also take some action after finishing a good second in the Sam F. Davis, as may Shesterkin who last finished second behind the morning-line chalk, though it would be a surprise to see either of them favored over Tapit Trice.
Q: Who is the best Tampa Bay Derby jockey?
A: No jockey has won this race more than twice; those two-time winners include Pat Day, Richard Migliore, Eibar Coa, Daniel Centeno, John Velazquez, and Jose Ortiz. The only one of those riders in the race this year is Centeno, who rides Groveland for trainer Eoin Harty.
Q: Who won the Tampa Bay Derby in 2022?
A: Classic Causeway won the 2022 Tampa Bay Derby for trainer Brian Lynch and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Lynch did not enter a horse this year, though Irad Ortiz returns to ride Classic Legacy for trainer Bill Mott.