By MICHAEL COMPTON
The last time Florida-bred Watch Me Go and Crimson Knight met on the racetrack they put on quite a show. In last year’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2), the two runners—both massive long shots on the tote board—hooked up at the head of the lane and dueled all the way to the wire in a memorable stretch drive. On the line, it was Watch Me Go prevailing by a neck at odds of 43-1. Crimson Knight was forced to settle for second at odds of 86-1.
While a single race doesn’t necessarily make a rivalry, Saturday’s Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs reunites the rivals. Now 4-year-olds, Watch Me Go and Crimson Knight headline the $60,000 fixture at 1 1/16 miles.
Watch Me Go is a son of Stonehedge Farm South stallion West Acre and a Gilbert Campbell homebred trained by Kathleen O’Connell. The Tampa Bay Derby proved to be Watch Me Go’s peak last season. Following that big effort, he faltered in the Illinois Derby (G3), Kentucky Derby (G1), Virginia Derby (G2) and the Select Stakes last August to close out his season. He returned to Tampa Bay Downs and promptly demonstrated his affection for Oldsmar, finishing second in the Super Stakes on Feb. 11.
He worked six furlongs Feb. 22 in 1:16 2/5 in preparation for Saturday’s rematch, and O’Connell is delighted with his progress.
“It was real easy, all on his own, and he galloped out strong,” O’Connell said. “I didn’t want to overdo his works between races. I think a route will help my horse, and the fact we have a race underneath us is another positive.”
Crimson Knight, by Stonewall Farm Ocala sire Leroidesanimaux (BRZ), fared a little better than Watch Me Go following the Tampa Bay Derby. He won his next race and then finished a close fourth in the Arlington Classic. He also hit the board in the Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs and in the Capital City Stakes at Penn National.
Most recently, he finished second on the turf at Tampa last week for trainer Gerald Bennett.
“It was a hard-run race, but he came out of it real good,” Bennett said. “He’s just starting to come to hand now and getting back to the way he was when he was running against 3-year-olds last year.
“He is getting better and better each race. When he gets the way he is now, he runs hard every time,” he added.
Wiki has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite for leading trainer Jamie Ness. The son of Arch was victorious last time out in a $30,000 overnight handicap. Also in the field is Seruni, a 5-year-old son of Saint Liam for trainer Philip Oliver. Jon Court flies in for the mount.