Ring Weekend rolls to victory in the Tampa Bay Derby on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. (Photo by SV Photography)
In a span of just two starts, Ring Weekend ascended from a 3-year-old in search of his first career win to a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender.
The Tapit gelding made his stakes debut on Saturday in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby and led from start to finish in a visually impressive three-length victory in Tampa Bay Downs’ signature race.
Ridden by Daniel Centeno for trainer Graham Motion, Ring Weekend opened up a 3 ½-length lead through a half-mile in :46.68 in the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 2 Kentucky Derby prep race. Ring Weekend was all by himself as he swept into the stretch and from there he never was seriously challenged. Ring Weekend coasted to victory in 1:43.71 at 14-to-1 odds. A $2 win bet on Ring Weekend returned a healthy $30.
Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Vinceremos finished second as the 4.80-to-1 third betting choice. He was followed by Surfing U S A and 2.60-to-1 favorite Conquest Titan, who entered the Tampa Bay Derby off a runner-up finish to highly regarded Derby hopeful Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull Stakes in January.
After finishing fifth in his career debut in August at Saratoga, Ring Weekend finished third, third and second in his next three races. Entering his fifth start on Feb. 8 at Gulfstream Park, Ring Weekend was still looking for his first win and he got it with a half-length score. Motion and co-owners St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds had enough confidence in the gelding to take a chance in the Tampa Bay Derby, and they were rewarded with a breakthrough stakes win that punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby on May 3.
Ring Weekend banked 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard -more than enough to secure a starting spot in the first jewel of the Triple Crown – and $210,000 to boost his career earnings to $255,660. Motion won the Kentucky Derby in 2011 with Animal Kingdom.
West Point Thoroughbreds and St. Elias Stable plucked Ring Weekend out of the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale for $310,000 from the consignment of breeder Gainsway Thoroughbreds. A Kentucky-bred by top sire Tapit, who stands at Gainesway, Ring Weekend is one of six winners from as many starters produced by multiple stakes-placed winner Free the Magic, by Cryptoclearance.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
Photo by SV Photography