Tampa Bay Derby: Contenders & Overview of the Field for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Prep Race

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An All-Star cast assembles for the best card of the year on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Florida track takes a rare center-stage spotlight as the king of the industry, distributing $1,245,000 in purses, which is tops in the industry. 

A special first post of 11:55 a.m. ET and a 12-race card anchored by the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby — a win and you’re in Kentucky Derby qualifier at 5:15 p.m. ET — highlight the card.

Bettors can access the action all day via FanDuel TV.

2023 Tampa Bay Derby Field

Here is the field for Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby.

PPHorseML OddsJockey Trainer
1Lord Miles10-1Paco LopezSaffie Joseph, Jr.
2Classic Car Wash8-1Emisael JaramilloMark Casse
3Classic Legacy6-1Irad Ortiz, Jr.William Mott
4Groveland8-1Daniel CentenoEoin Harty
5Mikey Bananas20-1Pablo MoralesTimothy Hamm
6Tapit Trice8-5Luis SaezTodd Pletcher
7Freedom Road20-1Hector Diaz, Jr.Gregory Sacco
8Dreaming of Kona20-1Scott SpiethAldana Spieth
9Shesterkin10-1Edgard ZayasTodd Pletcher
10Champions Dream15-1Antonio GallardoMark Casse
11Zydeceaux20-1Samuel MarinRamon Minguet
12Prairie Hawk20-1Samy CamachoSaffie Joseph, Jr.

There is often as much betting opportunity in low-level claiming races with big fields as in the championship matchups. Race 1 is an $8,000 claiming event with 12 horses. Matchups like these often yield upsets and payouts.

This is the place to be. All of Tampa’s leading riders have several mounts, including top riders Samy Camacho, Pablo Morales, and Antonio Gallardo. When bettors are uncertain about a race, they can get a glimpse of public sentiment by seeing how much backing horses with these riders get.

Tampa’s top riders are joined by top Gulfstream Park jockeys Luis Saez and Irad Ortiz. This flips the script, as Tampa jockeys are usually trying to branch out and go to Gulfstream. This time, Gulfstream comes to Tampa.

Saturday’s Tampa Bay Downs Racing Schedule

Bettors can dig into a splendid five-race, late afternoon package totaling $1 million in purses. This ranges from race 7 at 3:02 p.m. ET to race 11 at 5:15 p.m. ET.

The Million Dollar Medley includes:

  • The $75,000 Columbia Stakes, 1 mile on the turf.
  • The $100,000 Ultra Challenge at 1 1-16 miles on dirt. This is an excellent chance to preview how the track is playing for the Tampa Bay Derby, which will be conducted a couple of hours later at the same distance.
  • The $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for 1 1-8 miles on the turf.
  • The $200,000 Florida Oaks, 1 1-16 miles on the turf.
  • The main event is the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1-16 miles on the dirt.

Tampa Bay Derby Contenders and Overview

Bettors have a couple of big decisions to make.

The first is how much weight to give the Gulfstream circuit, as some of its main competitors shift to Tampa Bay. That’s normally a big advantage.

Three Gulfstream horses invade and will be played.

Tapit Trice enters with two straight 1-mile victories, one at Aqueduct and one at Gulfstream. He has a field-best 92 Beyer speed figure and looks to be on the ascent.

His rate of improvement would make him the horse to beat. He must, however, stretch out to two turns for the first time and face a large field. Not a gimme.

Tampa Bay Derby: Contenders & Overview of the Field for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Prep Race
Jockey Luis Saez (here aboard Wajaab) rides Tapit Trice in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby. (AP Photo/Martin Dokoupil)

Shesterkin finished several lengths behind Tapit Trice at Gulfstream. Does that level of racing nonetheless put him in the mix here?

On the Tampa angle, no less than seven horses came out of the Sam Davis last month. Four make sense.

Among this group, Groveland was the best performer. Classic Car Wash, Classic Legacy, and Zydeceaux finished noses apart — a length or so behind Groveland.

They are the key Tampa players. The Gulfstream invaders and the Tampa Horses with a race over the track converge. In situations like this, you often see a sprinkling from each circuit represented in the top three.

Look for Zydeceaux to want the lead. Tampa is speed-favoring, but if this pace is contentious, stalkers have an excellent chance.

Tampa Bay Derby Betting Analysis

Several betting types accommodate this format. If you like a price horse on the win line, play it. You’d hate to waste a great pick by having the wrong horses underneath.

If you like one horse in the exotics, but don’t know if he can win, you can consider a 10-cent superfecta key. 

Put the horse in the first spot with five horses underneath to fill the second, third, and fourth positions. Then put him second with the same five that must occupy first, third, and fourth positions.

The total cost is $12. This is best for a big field and you have a hunch that a couple of long shots will hit the top four.

Good luck finding a Cha-Ching angle on Saturday.

Florida Oaks Contenders and Overview

Mission of Joy

Comes off nice maiden special weights and allowance victory. Good horse on the way up.

Alpha Bella

Had a 16-1 upset at the Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream in her pocket until Cairo Consort stormed from the back and stole it in the final strides. Belongs.

Faccia Bella

After three seconds, finally broke her maiden in the last race. It was 1 1-8 miles at Tampa. Now she goes for a parlay.

Dreaming of Snow

Fascinating dice roll from Tampa’s leading trainer Gerald Bennett. Dreaming of Snow pulled off a massive 38-1 upset over Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Wonder Wheel last month. Great front-running effort on the dirt, with Camacho in the irons.

It’s one month later, and Bennett decides to give it a shot on turf. Camacho is on her again. If she takes to the turf, bettors with a hunch could make a hunch.

Navy Goat

A deceiving third in the Ginger Brew behind Cairo Consort. Blocked badly and could not make a stretch run. Better positioning could equal a better fate.

Stephanie’s Charm

Finished just ahead of Navy Goat in that race. These two will be hard to separate.

Juniper’s Moon

Broke maiden willingly in last at Tampa Bay at this distance. Tries the same route against better company.

Mohawk Trail

Climbed the ladder with wins at maiden and allowance at Tampa on the turf. Moves one rung up.

Free Look

Not a bad fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November. Big class drop and four-month layoff may cancel each other out. Trained by highly-regarded Chad Brown.

Grace Darling

Won in first outing at Gulfstream Park. Stretches out and makes a bold move up in class.

Ticker Tape Home

Well back of Dreaming of Home in the Suncoast, Maiden at this distance on the turf. Doesn’t fit winner’s profile.

Florida Oaks Betting Analysis

Demand value. Win line should be valuable. Dabble a minor portion of the budget on exotics if you think a bomb runs in the top four.

Also read: What is the Triple Crown of horse racing?

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About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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