Prospective, a 3-year-old son of Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon, established a clear stalking spot early under Luis Contreras. With supplemental entry Cajun Charlie blazing through an opening quarter in :22.69 and a half mile in :47.08, Prospective simply bid his time in fourth in the parade down the backstretch.
A confident Contreras sent Prospective after the lead as the field negotiated the far turn and Cajun Charlie began to retreat. Race favorite Spring Hill Farm offered chase on the outside and Golden Ticket slipped through along the inside.
While Spring Hill Farm’s bid lacked the steam to push by the leader in the stretch, Golden Ticket offered a stern challenge to Prospective and even poked his head in front at one point through the lane. The two hit the wire virtually together with Prospective edging three-quarters of a length clear on the line. He stopped the clock for the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.34, just a couple ticks off the track record of 1:42.83 set by Bold Start in 2010. Prospective’s time was the second-fastest Tampa Bay Derby in the race’s 32-year history. The only one faster was Street Sense’s 1:43.11 in 2007.
Trainer Mark Casse was understandably thrilled with the win.
“I rode him pretty hard,” Casse said jokingly, his voice hoarse from yelling. “Was I worried? Well, I wish he could have won by five. But was I worried? You know, he’s a fighter, and I didn’t really think anybody would beat him once he made the lead.”
After finishing second behind Battle Hardened in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) last timeout, Prospective raced with a new piece of equipment on Saturday. Casse added blinkers.
“I was shocked he made the lead so early today, but with the blinkers he was much more aggressive,” Casse said. “He’s a character—he just does what he has to do.
“We put blinkers on to get him to focus a little more,” he said. “When we watched him in the Sam F. Davis, he was running down the backside the entire way with his head cocked and he was kind of looking at things. Luis said about the 3/8-mile pole of the Davis he thought he was finished, but then when the horse came outside him he started running again. I said to Mr. Oxley, this (the blinkers) will get him a little closer in the early running and it worked.”
Prospective, a Kentucky-bred son of Malibu Moon-Spirited Away, by Awesome Again, was bred by Spendthrift Farm.
“He is doing very well and I’m sure he’s very happy and he’ll be fine for the next one,” said Casse, who indicated Prospective may be pointed toward the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct On April 7. “The Oxleys have stepped up and given me the opportunity to be able to go out and buy horses, so to be able to reward them with something like this is special.”
Also Saturday on Tampa Bay Downs Festival Day, Martin Schwartz’s 5-year-old mare Zagora made it 2-for-2 this season in Grade 3 turf races locally, powering to a one-and-three-quarter length victory from Federation in the 14th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares.