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Tampa Bay Derby Preview

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 3/6/2014 8:31:00 PM

About the Race and Track

The Grade 2 mile and a sixteenth Tampa Bay Derby has elevated its status in the last several years. Once just another race at the Florida track not named Calder or Gulfstream Park, Street Sense put the race on the map in 2007. He became the first and only runner to win this race and parlay to success in the Kentucky Derby.

Last year Verrazano stayed unbeaten winning the Tampa Bay Derby but getting a super 2-hole trip while earning a 101 Beyer Speed Figure and proved it was no fluke by winning the Grade 1 Haskell later in the year. Verrazano’s  trainer Todd Pletcher is looking for that déjà vu feeling as he saddles Surfing U S A and Vinceremos in this race.

A Longshot With Some Value:  Matador

Value should be there and the race over the track just may propel him to a super effort here at a price.

The Pick: Conquest Titan (Win)

Surfing U S A displayed talent from Day One when a wide 2nd in the debut. He graduated from right off the pace at 7 furlongs and tried to wire a $75,000 optional field routing but was tiring at the top of the lane and settle for just completing the exacta. The horse that beat him that day, Top Billing, came back in the Fountain of Youth closing into legit splits to be beaten 3 lengths by Wildcat Red. His sire was a Grade 1 winner at 9 furlongs. His dam was turf only but won at 9 furlongs and the lone sibling won once routing in the off going. Rider Javier Castellano bails for the experienced stakes runner but new pilot Jose Lezcano is 22% for this barn in the last year or so.

Matador debuted in a synthetic stakes sprinting and was bothered at the break when out of the money. Connections though enough of him to try a Grade 2 in his second start and he ran well to be third. In his second turf effort, this Mark Casse student took to the yielding course at Woodbine and showed grit winning by a nose. Troubled next out in a $250,000 restricted synthetic stakes, this colt ended 2012 with a disappointing 6th. He made his dirt debut at Tampa in February and finished with interest closing ground but missing by a length. His dam was sprint only but the dam is kin to Grade 3 winner Golden Itiz, who won at 9 furlongs and banked over $300,000. He is off a career Beyer and has every right to build on it.

Conquest Titan is another Casse trainee that has much more speed than he flashed in his recent start. He was dead last early in the Holy Bull, circled the field to eventually finish 2nd behind the promising Cairo Prince. He showed his agility beating entry-level allowance foes at Churchill when he overcame losing his footing early before looping the field to win on dirt. And that was the trainer’s plan to take him back and let him make the one run. The place horse in his win two back has been super since. That runner, General a Rod, took a $100,000 stakes next out and was a tough-luck 2nd beaten a nose in the Fountain of Youth. And the show horse in the last race won the Grade 2 Risen Star on Feb. 22 by a nose with a 97 Beyer. There is no reason he won’t take to the distance as his sire Birdstone won the Belmont Stakes. His dam was unraced, this is her first to roll. He looms a major player.

Vinceremos was bet like a good thing in the sprint debut but caught the slop and was a well-beaten second. He got back on track next out on the stretch out holding on by a head with a 73 Beyer and then again showed he has a nose for the wire taking the Sam Davis by a diminishing nose. The horse that ran second in the Davis raced in the Gotham on March 1 and was a wide 5th beaten nearly 6 lengths. This Todd Pletcher charge has a right to thrive with real estate as his sire won the 9-furlong Santa Anita Derby. His dam was a non-winner but she dropped a runner that won at a mile on grass and if you go deep in the pedigree you’ll find a couple that earned over $450,000. His penchant for finding the wire is one of his best assets.
 
Conquest Titan gets the right kind of pace and should mow them all down.

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