As much as I’m generally inclined to pick against favorites that don’t thrill me, I just couldn’t find a suitable alternative to likely favorite #3 Candy Man Rocket in this Tampa Bay Derby. The inclination would be to assume that this Grade 2 event would be a sterner test for this lightly-raced 3-year-old than its prep, the Sam F. Davis, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. There are few new shooters worth considering and none have been as impressive as the favorite.
Candy Man Rocket will once again have to hold off main rival #8 Hidden Stash, but that one couldn’t forge past his nemesis last time in the Sam F. Davis despite working out a great trip. It’s somewhat troublesome that he fails to change leads in the stretch of his races, preventing him from producing the added burst of energy he would need to win at this level. He seems like he most likely upsetter to me, but I do prefer the horse that beat him last time.
I can’t endorse any of the others. Todd Pletcher has entered a pair of last-out maiden winners, #9 Unbridled Honor and #11 Promise Keeper. I suppose the latter has stronger credentials, having run faster against a better field at Gulfstream last time. However, he got a good trip leading throughout over a sloppy track, and he has to contend with other speed in this field. Unbridled Honor was fairly green last time, but that’s been the story in all of his starts, and he’s yet to run a particularly fast race. Furthermore, Todd Pletcher is just 1 for 38 (3%, $0.26 ROI) with last-out maiden winners in graded stakes dirt routes over the past 5 years.
I’m reluctant to default to a favorite in a race that seems, at first glance, to be somewhat competitive, but I just couldn’t justify a longshot selection. From a wagering standpoint, I’d tread lightly here.
Exacta: 3 with 6,8,9,11