Saturday’s 32nd running of the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) attracted a competitive field of 12 3-year-olds attempting to secure a berth in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1).
The field is led by graded stakes winners Battle Hardened and Prospective. Graded stakes-placed Take Charge Indy and the promising Spring Hill Farm add to the intrigue of the 1 1/16-mile fixture.
Battle Hardened proved his mettle and affinity for the Oldsmar oval in winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) on Feb. 4. The son of Giant’s Causeway broke his maiden in that race for owners Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier. The chestnut colt is conditioned by Eddie Kenneally. Jockey Julien Leparoux, who was aboard for the Sam Davis victory, returns in the saddle.
John Oxley’s Prospective finished second behind Battle Hardened in the Sam Davis. The son of Malibu Moon traveled wide on both turns, appeared to lose ground at the head of the lane and then hit his best stride and closed to be second in a game effort for trainer Mark Casse.
Prospective won last year’s Grey Stakes (G3) at Woodbine under jockey Luis Contreras, who has ridden the three-time winner in all six career starts. He is the pilot again on Saturday.
Despite the fact that Battle Hardened and Prospective are proven over the track, favoritism could fall to Spring Hill Farm. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Smart Strike—Colonial Minstrel, by Pleasant Colony is undefeated in two starts for Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton.
In winning his last race, an optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 11, Spring Hill Farm gave Pletcher his 3,000th career victory. Spring Hill Farm will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
Take Charge Indy, who finished fifth in the Juvenile last November despite a troubled trip, joins the fray this time around. The son of A.P. Indy finished second to El Padrino in an optional claiming race last time out at Gulfstream Park. That race marked is first start since last year’s Juvenile. Pat Byrne trains the Chuck and Maribeth Sandford colorbearer. Take Charge Indy is produced from the talented race mare and multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy.
The Tampa Bay Derby is part of the track’s annual Festival Day, which also features the 14th renewal of the Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares at about a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf and the 32nd annual $100,000 Stonewall Farm Ocala Suncoast Stakes.