The Grade 2, $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby will be contested for the 38th time on Saturday, offering 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner. The field is led by Flameaway, winner of the Sam F. Davis, but this race came up much tougher than that local prep. Tiz Mischief and Untamed Domain ship in from the Gulfstream Park area, and the blazingly fast World of Trouble attempts to stretch out in distance for the first time.
The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, with Flameaway (#5), World of Trouble (#8), and Quip (#10) contesting the early lead. World of Trouble is clearly the fastest among that trio, but one would imagine that Irad Ortiz will attempt to ration out his speed going this longer distance for the first time. Late runners like Tiz Mischief and Untamed Domain stand to benefit from a spirited early duel.
Let’s go through the entire field:
#1, ARAZI LIKE MOVE (50-1): He’s been defeated in two stakes attempts against weaker company, and was most recently thrashed by today’s rival, World of Trouble. He’s overmatched.
#2, TIZ MISCHIEF (8-1): This horse ran one of the more eye-catching races in last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club, an event that has been a frustrating read for horseplayers. The top two finishers in that race, Enticed and this colt, returned to disappoint last time out in the Holy Bull. Yet others running back out of the Kentucky Jockey Club have done quite well in other Derby preps. Those include Promises Fulfilled, winner of the Fountain of Youth; Bravazo, winner of the Risen Star; and Reride, winner of the Mine That Bird Derby. It seems plausible that Tiz Mischief and Enticed may have just needed the race, unable to deal with the likes of Audible and Free Drop Billy in their first starts back off a brief layoff. Yet the fact remains that Tiz Mischief has yet to run a particularly fast race. His career-best Beyer of 82 and top TimeformUS Speed Figure of 108 are not fast enough to win any of the major Kentucky Derby preps. It appears that Dale Romans has indeed found a slightly easier spot for this colt to continue his journey and the pace scenario is predicted to swing in his favor. He’s one that I’ll certainly be using, but I wouldn’t settle for too short a price.
#3, VINO ROSSO (4-1): Todd Pletcher has managed this colt deliberately from the start. He didn’t make his debut until mid-November, winning an Aqueduct maiden race at the demanding distance of seven furlongs. He earned an impressive 109 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that effort, hinting that better things were on the horizon. Yet rather than throw him into the deep end of the pool immediately, Pletcher instead gave him a chance to get his bearings as the 1-20 favorite against a soft allowance field in his second start. It’s a similar pattern to the one he followed with Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming last year.
Vino Rosso got his first true test last time out in the Sam F. Davis, and I thought he handled himself well considering his general inexperience. While he didn’t have any serious trouble during the race, he certainly got an education, as he was situated between horses in somewhat tight quarters for the majority of his trip. He didn’t actually work his way into the clear until they reached the quarter pole, and even then it took him a little while to find his best stride. However, he did get rolling in the final sixteenth of a mile and was finishing best of all as they crossed the wire before promptly passing the first two finishers on the gallop-out. This horse is bred to appreciate all the distance he can get. While he’s only asked to go 1 1/16 miles again here, Todd Pletcher adds blinkers in an attempt to get him to focus on his task for the entire race. Generally, that’s not a great move for this barn, but I think it makes sense in this colt’s case. After all, he doesn’t need to improve much at all on the 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned last time out. I think he’s likely to turn the tables on Flameaway here, and he’s my pick.
#4, GRANDPA KNOWS BEST (30-1): He returns from a layoff after ending this 2-year-old campaign on a positive note, taking down a pair of races at Churchill Downs. There’s obviously potential for further improvement, but he’s yet to crack a triple-digit TimeformUS Speed Figure and he was not facing fields of high quality last year. He’s difficult for me to endorse.
#5, FLAMEAWAY (3-1): I was dead wrong about this colt in the Sam F. Davis. I had been convinced that he was primarily a turf horse based on his superior effort in the Kitten’s Joy and apparent affinity for a wet, sealed dirt track. Instead, he made those of us that placed limitations on his ability look like fools. Flameaway actually seems to be adept racing over any kind of surface – a true all-weather and all-surface specialist. In a race that could otherwise be labeled a N2X allowance race, his five career wins should not be taken lightly.
While Flameaway does indeed deserve respect, I still want to take a shot against him here. He got it done at 10-1 last time and is going to be a much shorter price – perhaps even the favorite – now that his dirt ability is exposed. Horses like that are almost always bad bets in their subsequent starts. While he was very game to win the Sam F. Davis, he did receive a very favorable pace scenario. His expected pace rival scratched out of that race, leaving him alone up front. That first quarter-mile of 24 seconds flat was quite slow, and the subsequent fractions are color-coded blue (slow) in TimeformUS PPs. This time, he’s probably going to have to stalk, sitting just behind likely pacesetter World of Trouble and perhaps even the speedy Quip. He comes into this race off the fastest two-turn TimeformUS Speed Figure of 118, but that was earned under ideal circumstances. I’d use him defensively, but I prefer others in the top slot this time.
#6, ENTICED: Expected to scratch.
#7, FREE DROP BILLY: Expected to scratch.
#8, WORLD OF TROUBLE (5-1): As the connections of any top 3-year-old are wont to do at this time of year, this colt’s owners are looking to find out if their sprinter can indeed stretch his speed around two turns. World of Trouble is indeed a very fast sprinter. Making his first start off a trainer switch to Jason Servis last time, he was dazzling in the Pasco, racing away from an overmatched bunch to win by nearly 14 lengths. He stopped the clock in 1:21.52 seconds, just hundredths of a second off the track record for seven furlongs. While that victory was visually stunning, the quality of the runners behind him has to be called into question. Furthermore, while the early fractions appeared to be fast at first glance, TimeformUS PPs indicate that the pace was actually slow (color-coded blue) relative to the final time. That race was run on a day when the main track appeared to be carrying speed (note the pink color-coded race-rating box). Yet, at the end of the day, he still ran a 120 TimeformUS Speed Figure, the highest earned by any runner in this field.
This time, World of Trouble will have to outrun other speeds, such as Flameaway and Quip, and turn away late challenges. It seems like an awfully tall task for a horse that is so inexperienced and still quite green. Furthermore, he’s bred to be a sprinter, by speed sire Kantharos and out of a dam that has produced three other foals, all of whom were best going shorter. On the other hand, his trainer Jason Servis has excellent statistics in this situation. Over the past four years, he is 8 for 17 (47 percent, $4.92 ROI) with non-maidens trying a dirt route for the first time. I respect World of Trouble’s talent, but I’d restrict his use to underneath in exotics.
#9, UNTAMED DOMAIN (6-1): He was a pretty talented 2-year-old, winning the Summer Stakes before finishing a fast-closing second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He did not get the easiest trip that day, having to angle five wide around the far turn to make a clear run. His 3-year-old debut in the Dania Beach was considerably less inspiring, as he lost as the 6-5 favorite. It’s possible that he needed the start coming off a three-month layoff, and he could be set to move forward now. However, his connections have decided to try the dirt with him to make him into a Derby horse. I’m fairly skeptical. Animal Kingdom has been a somewhat versatile sire, though most of his progeny have excelled on turf. The female side of this colt’s pedigree is far less ambiguous – it’s all turf breeding. He’s going to get pace to close into and we’ve seen Graham Motion do this before, but horses like this are generally underlays. I’m passing.
#10, QUIP (20-1): This Distorted Humor colt has a bit of talent, but this is probably not his time. He’s drawn a tough outside post position in a race where his two key pace rivals are drawn inside of him. He worked out a wide trip in the Kentucky Jockey Club where he just seemed to be losing ground throughout the race after breaking sharply. He did show promise in his first couple of juvenile starts against softer competition and I wish his connections had elected to start him off in a more realistic spot.
#11, CALORIC (50-1): He’s coming off a win against $16,000 claimers, so I’m not sure why his connections think he has any business running in a race like this.
I think this race sets up very well for Vino Rosso (#3), who should move forward off his stakes debut in the Sam F. Davis last time. I’m a fan of this horse and I don’t think we’ve seen him put forth his best effort yet. I’d primarily use him with Tiz Mischief and Flameaway, and I’ll even throw in World of Trouble on deeper tickets.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 2,5
Trifecta: 3 with 2,5,8 with 2,5,8,9,10