2020 Tampa Bay Derby Cheat Sheet

Racing
Tacitus (right center, purple jockey cap) emerged on the 2019 Kentucky Derby trail by winning the Tampa Bay Derby, which is annually an important prep leading up to the run for the roses and this year will be held on March 7. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Saturday’s $400,000, Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs is a key steppingstone for 3-year-olds on the road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

The 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale, virtually guaranteeing a spot in the May 2 Derby at Churchill Downs to the winner.

In recent years, the Tampa Bay Derby has been won by such notable racehorses as Street Sense in 2007 and Tapwrit in 2017 – those horses went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in their respective 3-year-old seasons – while 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver earlier finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Sole Volante headlines this year’s field. He emerged as a top Kentucky Derby contender with an impressive win in the Feb. 8 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, the local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby will be shown live on “America’s Day at the Races” broadcast on FS2 and also on TVG, with a scheduled post time of 5:32 p.m. ET.

Learn all about the 12 contenders in Saturday’s race below.


1. Texas Swing (12-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Harrell Ventures

Career record: 2 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $13,600

Earnings per start: $6,800

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 92

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Curlin – Derby Eve, by Tiznow

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: In contrast with Todd Pletcher’s other two starters, Texas Swing already owns a win on Tampa Bay Downs’ love-it-or-hate-it main track, which could benefit him in the Tampa Bay Derby. This son of Hall of Famer Curlin displayed an affinity for the strip back on Feb. 8, taking a one-mile and 40-yard maiden race by 1 ¼ lengths. He set a contested early pace in that two-turn test and turned back a challenger at the top of the stretch, continuing on well to the finish line and earning a 92 Equibase Speed Figure. That win came in his second career start after a fourth-place finish at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 21 going six furlongs, for which he netted an 81 Equibase Speed Figure. A similar 11-point jump on Saturday would give Texas Swing a shot at possibly posting an upset win, but a more realistic scenario has him dueling for the early lead under expert jockey Javier Castellano and holding on for a minor award, with his best races yet to come. He does have a good stamina pedigree, as his dam is a full sister (same dam [mother], same sire [father]) to millionaire and Travers Stakes winner Colonel John. Pletcher has won this race a record five times: Limehouse (2004); Verrazano (2013); Carpe Diem (2015); Destin (2016); Tapwrit (2017). Pletcher trainee Outshine was runner-up to Tacitus in last year’s renewal. Hall of Famer Castellano was in the irons for Destin’s victory.


Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photo

2. Spa City (10-1)

Jockey: Daniel Centeno

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Owner: Godolphin

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $34,800

Earnings per start: $11,600

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Street Sense – Sara Louise, by Malibu Moon

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Spa City joins several other lightly raced horses entered in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby as a contender facing a big class hike but carrying a lot of upside. He enters off of a maiden win at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 8, which came in his third career start and his second at age 3 following a runner-up finish on the same track in January. He won a 1 1/8-mile, two-turn event (a half-furlong longer than he’ll race Saturday) and he showed encouraging development by dispatching the pacesetter easily and then holding Tampa Bay Derby foe Unrighteous at bay for a one-length score, with 14 ¾ lengths separating the runner-up from the third-place finisher. Spa City earned a 105 Equibase Speed Figure in his win, which puts him in the company of Chance It and Sole Volante among the fastest horses entered in the Tampa Bay Derby. It will be interesting to see where jockey Daniel Centeno situates this colt in the early going, given that he’s already proven his ability to run well covering a route of ground and does not necessarily need the early lead to win. Spa City is a Godolphin homebred by 2007 Tampa Bay Derby winner and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, and he has a solid overall pedigree. His dam, Sara Louise, earned more than $400,000 and won three graded stakes, two of them at a mile. Locally-based Daniel Centeno, who ranks second at the ongoing Tampa Bay Downs meet in earnings, has won two Tampa Bay Derbies, aboard Musket Man in 2009 and Ring Weekend in 2014.


Coady Photography

3. Relentless Dancer (12-1)

Jockey: Antonio Gallardo

Trainer: Mike Maker

Owners: Paradise Farms, Terry Raymond, and Jana Wagner

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $97,511

Earnings per start: $24,378

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 1

Pedigree: Midshipman – Passion for Words, by Benchmark

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This Louisiana-bred will look to bounce back from a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes come Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby. He entered that Feb. 1 race at Gulfstream Park as a viable contender based on two consecutive open-length wins last fall at Churchill Downs (where he finished in a dead-heat with eventual graded stakes-placed Silver State) and in a Delta Downs state-bred stakes, but he could not keep up with pacesetter Ete Indien in the Holy Bull and retreated after six furlongs in a race won by leading Kentucky Derby contender Tiz the Law. In his defense, Relentless Dancer was bumped and pushed out at the start of the Holy Bull, and that race’s form has held up very well as Ete Indien came back to dominate last weekend’s Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes. Still, this Midshipman colt rates well below the top Tampa Bay Derby contenders based on speed figures, and his past races and pedigree suggest that one mile may be his competitive limit. If he gets off to a good start under current leading Tampa Bay Downs rider Antonio Gallardo, Relentless Dancer will help create a solid early pace in the Tampa Bay Derby, but anything more would be a surprise.


Lauren King/Coglianese Photo

4. Chance It (5-2)

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owner: Shooting Star Thoroughbreds

Career record: 6 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $444,910

Earnings per start: $74,152

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Currency Swap – Vagabon Diva, by Pleasantly Perfect

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This Gulfstream Park-based contender ships west after he was scratched from last Saturday’s Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes due to an unfavorable post-position draw. Despite having a sprinter’s pedigree, he looms as one of the main threats to Sole Volante in the Tampa Bay Derby, provided he handles Tampa Bay Downs’ sometimes quirky main track. Chance It’s impressive career record listed above has all occurred at Gulfstream, including a 7 ¼-length score in the 1 1/16-mile FTBOA Florida Sire In Reality Stakes two starts back in his only route race to date. He ventured out of state-bred competition in his most recent start, the one-turn mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 4, and posted a game head win over subsequent Fountain of Youth third-place finisher As Seen on Tv after a heated stretch duel, a race in which Sole Volante finished third. Chance It does not have a flashy bloodline, but he is fit and looks ready to fire on Saturday coming off a series of sharp workouts at Gulfstream. This colt will definitely be a pace factor in the Tampa Bay Derby and has a good shot at winning if, as mentioned above, he takes to a new dirt track and does not get caught up in a speed duel. 


Zoe Metz/Coglianese Photo

5. Market Analysis (8-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: China Horse Club and WinStar Farm

Career record: 1 start – 1 win – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $25,800

Earnings per start: $25,800

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 94

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Honor Code – Interest Free, by Exchange Rate

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Market Analysis is ambitiously placed in the Tampa Bay Derby, coming off of his debut maiden win Jan. 25, and while he’ll have to take a big leap in development to challenge the likes of Sole Volante and Chance It, his first appearance on the racetrack was very encouraging for long-term success. In that seven-furlong race at Gulfstream Park, he stalked the pace under John Velazquez, swung three wide at the top of the lane, and accelerated to a three-quarter-length win that was good for a solid 94 debut Equibase Speed Figure. He defeated a 50.20-1 shot in that race; but it should be noted that said longshot, Attachment Rate, came back to score by 6 ¼ lengths going a mile at Gulfstream in February and is entered in the Gotham Stakes, a Derby prep at Aqueduct, on Saturday. Market Analysis has been training well at Palm Beach Downs for Todd Pletcher and has a good pedigree for going two turns as a son of Honor Code on the A.P. Indy sire line and from a female family that includes several route stakes winners, including Belmont Stakes runner-up and Breeders’ Cup Classic third-place finisher Fly Down. He’s worth a look at appealing odds on Saturday. Todd Pletcher has won this race five times, the most by any trainer: Limehouse (2004), Verrazano (2013), Carpe Diem (2015), Destin (2016), and Tapwrit (2017). In addition, Pletcher-trained Outshine was runner-up to Tacitus in last year’s renewal. Hall of Famer Velazquez rode Verrazano and Carpe Diem to victory for Pletcher. Co-owners China Horse Club and WinStar Farm also were part owners of 2018 Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip along with SF Racing.


Coady Photography

6. Mo Mosa (30-1)

Jockey: Pablo Morales

Trainer: Mike Maker

Owners: Perry Martin and Denise Martin

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $41,040

Earnings per start: $13,680

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 92

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Roughing, by Eskendereya

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A surface switch and giant class test await this Uncle Mo colt in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby, and those factors will make him one of the longest shots in the race come post time. He has made three starts since his debut on New Year’s Eve, all coming on the synthetic Polytrack main track at Turfway Park in Kentucky, finishing second, third, and then first in his most recent outing. In that start on Feb. 13, he rolled to a 5 ¾-length win in a one-mile maiden race, his first start around two turns. However, he only earned a 77 Equibase Speed Figure, regressing from a 92 in his prior start. Turfway Park form is usually a mystery when assessing a horse’s chances on a dirt track, although it’s worth noting that Tampa Bay Downs’ main track does have a reputation for being deeper than many other dirt tracks, which could benefit a horse like Mo Mosa who’s been racing on synthetic. This colt showed more speed in his two-turn race and may benefit from trying that tactic again to gain a good early position behind Chance It and the other probable early leaders. But he’ll have to take a quantum leap in ability to have any shot at hitting the board on Saturday.


SV Photography

7. Sole Volante (2-1)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Patrick Biancone

Owners: Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Andie Biancone, and Limelight Stables Corp.

Career record: 4 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $196,310

Earnings per start: $49,078

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 10

Pedigree: Karakontie – Light Blow, by Kingmambo

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This gelding with a turf pedigree vaulted onto the road to the Kentucky Derby in his last start, taking the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 8 at Tampa Bay Downs over highly regarded odds-on favorite Independence Hall. He had previously won twice on turf, including in the Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park (King Guillermo finished third), and then finished third in his first dirt try behind Chance It in the one-turn mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 4. But his performance in the Sam F. Davis was a revelation, as he accelerated from well off a solid pace and effortlessly swept past Independence Hall in midstretch to win by a widening 2 ½ lengths. He’s a deserving morning-line favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby, and should get a solid enough pace to close into once again with Chance It and several other speed horses entered. Sole Volante could make it back-to-back graded stakes wins on this track Saturday simply by pairing his last-out Equibase Speed Figure of 108 … but if he’s able to improve that figure, he’ll most assuredly be back in the Tampa Bay winner’s circle and be vying with Tiz the Law and a couple of Bob Baffert’s horses as a leading Kentucky Derby contender. Florent Geroux replaces injured regular rider Luca Panici on Sole Volante for Saturday’s race; he won the 2018 Tampa Bay Derby aboard Quip.


Coady Photography

8. Letmeno (12-1)

Jockey: Chris Landeros

Trainer: Ian Wilkes

Owners: Randall Bloch, Six Column Stables, et al

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $61,600

Earnings per start: $15,400

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 1

Pedigree: Twirling Candy – Wicked Mizz, by Mizzen Mast

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Letmeno will be one of several longshots in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby that will have to improve significantly in order to be a factor. After winning his debut as a juvenile last summer at Ellis Park, he ran second in a seven-furlong stakes there in August and then fourth behind Dennis’ Moment in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs in September, defeated by seven lengths. Ian Wilkes gave him a five-month break before bringing Letmeno back in a one-mile and 40-yard allowance-optional claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 14. He churned on to finish third in that race but was no threat to winner Gouverneur Morris and runner-up Untitled, two colts that will be entered in Kentucky Derby points races somewhere in the next month. Through four starts, Letmeno profiles as a closer who may pick off some tired horses late to grab a minor award and fill out a superfecta (or at best, a trifecta) ticket, but that’s it. Wilkes has yet to win a Tampa Bay Derby, but was Carl Nafzger’s assistant in 2007 when eventual Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense won the race.


9. Unrighteous (20-1)

Jockey: Joe Bravo

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 2 starts – 0 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $10,320

Earnings per start: $5,160

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Violence – Tapit Ten, by Tapit

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Unrighteous enters the Tampa Bay Derby still a maiden but coming off of an encouraging second-place effort behind Spa City, a 3-year-old he’ll face again Saturday. He made up some ground late to finish a length behind that foe in a 1 1/8-mile maiden race at Gulfstream Park and earned a 104 Equibase Speed Figure, a big improvement over the 79 he earned when a well-beaten fourth in his career debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 11. Unrighteous was 14 ¾ lengths clear of the third-place finisher in that race, and if continues to progress in his third start he could hit the board in the Tampa Bay Derby at a good price. Overall, he’s an outsider as a win candidate behind more experienced horses such as Sole Volante and Chance It. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race a record five times: Limehouse (2004), Verrazano (2013), Carpe Diem (2015), Destin (2016), and Tapwrit (2017). Pletcher-trained Outshine finished second to Tacitus in last year’s renewal.


10. Bye Bye Melvin (20-1)

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Trainer: Graham Motion

Owner: Alex Campbell Jr.

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $32,840

Earnings per start: $6,568

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Karlovy Vary, by Dynaformer

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This well-bred Uncle Mo colt has improved considerably in his most recent two starts, both coming on turf and with a change in running style. He broke his maiden in his third try on Dec. 7, pressing the early pace in a 1 1/16-mile grass race at Tampa Bay Downs and drawing clear to a 8 ½-length victory. Then, he returned for his 3-year-old bow in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming turf race at Tampa and set the pace en route to a three-quarter-length win. His Equibase Speed Figure in that second win dropped to 88 from 100 in his maiden score, and he’ll be returning to dirt for the Tampa Bay Derby after finishing third on a sloppy track at Keeneland in his only other race on that surface. Overall, though, Bye Bye Melvin is a horse on the upswing and should be one of the major threats to Chance It among the front rank of horses as the field takes position through the backstretch on Saturday. His female-family pedigree is largely turf and synthetic-oriented, as his dam, Karlovy Vary, won the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland Stakes on Keeneland’s then-synthetic main track, and his half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) Mean Mary is currently a rising star in the turf filly and mare division with a recent Grade 3 stakes win at Gulfstream Park. Graham Motion has won the Tampa Day Derby twice, with Equality in 2002 and Ring Weekend in 2014.


11. King Guillermo (15-1)

Jockey: Samy Camacho  

Trainer: Juan Avila

Owner: Victoria’s Ranch

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $30,350

Earnings per start: $10,117

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of champion and Kentucky Derby sire Uncle Mo actually was favored over Sole Volante in his most recent start, the one-mile Pulpit Stakes on turf at Gulfstream Park on Nov. 30. He finished third to that foe in what turned out to be Sole Volante’s final turf start to date, and now King Guillermo returns to the main track hoping for similar improvement. He showed little in his debut on dirt back in September at Gulfstream, finishing sixth, but then scored by 6 ¼ lengths in a one-mile grass race at Gulfstream Park West before his good third in the Pulpit Stakes. King Guillermo should be among the front rank of horses as the Tampa Bay Derby field heads through the first turn, and has a local rider in Samy Camacho (currently second in wins and third in earnings at Tampa Bay Downs) to hustle him forward from an outside post and then keep him settled through the backstretch should he be on the lead. He has a decent pedigree for stretching out, carrying both dirt and turf influences, and his Equibase Speed Figures put him squarely in contention with the main contenders in Saturday’s race, making him an appealing longshot.


12. Tons of Gold (30-1)

Jockey: Angel Suarez

Trainer: Alexis Delgado

Owner: Partner Stable

Career record: 8 starts – 0 wins – 2 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $32,003

Earnings per start: $4,000

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 0

Pedigree: Tonalist – Exit to Heaven, by Holy Bull

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Going winless in eight starts usually equals high odds when facing Grade 2 stakes company, and this son of Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist certainly fits the longshot profile. Tons of Gold has made all eight of his career starts at Gulfstream Park, and has only finished worse than fourth once. That’s the good news. The bad news is, of course, that he hasn’t won any of those races and only once – in his second start back in August 2019 – has he finished less than 2 ½ lengths behind the winner. In his only two-turn start to date, two races ago, he checked in fourth in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race on Jan. 25 won by eventual Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes runner-up Candy Tycoon. Drawing the 12 post in the Tampa Bay Derby should not hinder this colt that much since his connections’ strategy will probably be to have him settle behind most of the field and try to pick off some horses in the stretch. But even if he were to achieve that, it’s tough to see Tons of Gold being a factor in the outcome at all Saturday.

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