By MICHAEL COMPTON
Saturday’s $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles over the Oldsmar lawn attracted a competitive overflow field of 13, leaving the popular Uptowncharlybrown’s return to his old stomping grounds on hold on the also eligible list.
A 5-year-old son of Florida-bred Limehouse, Uptowncharlybrown became a fan favorite at Tampa Bay Downs in 2010. Owned by Fantasy Lane Stable, the chestnut impressively took down top prize in that year’s Pasco Stakes, winning the seven-furlong prep for the Sam Davis Stakes (G3) as he pleased by six lengths. The win offered hope for a run at the classics.
Stretching out to a route of ground in the Sam Davis, Uptowncharlybrown closed late to finish third behind Rule. He lacked racing room in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) but turned in a game effort to finish fifth, beaten less than three lengths in a blanket finish by Odysseus, Schoolyard Dreams and the eventual Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Super Saver.
He went on to finish third over the Polytrack at Keeneland in the Lexington Stakes (G2), and he checked in fifth in a controversial Belmont Stakes (G1) where he was disqualified for not carrying the proper amount of weight. He went to the sidelines with a soft tissue injury following the Belmont Stakes, spending time in Ocala at Sunrise Stables.
Now trained by Edward Coletti, Uptowncharlybrown has made two turf starts at Gulfstream Park, finishing seventh in the Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G3) on Jan. 14 and was runner-up to Newsdad last time out in an optional claiming turf test.
“We were very much looking forward to coming home to the Tampa Bay Stakes, but it appears it might not happen as we are on the also eligible list,” said Bob Hutt, managing partner of Fantasy Lane Stables. “’Charley’ is doing great. He came out of his two turf efforts in great shape. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he has been bottled up on the rail and checked repeatedly in those two turf tries.
“He truly loves the surface and his type of running style is to be back early, but get into the flow of the race on the outside, grinding it out where he can show off his humongous stride and make a big run. He’s training great, but if a horse doesn’t scratch out, it won’t be on display at Tampa (this weekend).”
Among the leading contenders safely drawn into the body of the race as of press time are Florida-bred Duke of Mischief, who is making a rare turf appearance (although he is a winner on the grass); Moryba (BRZ); a Group 1 winner in his native Brazil and multiple graded stakes-placed in the U.S. for trainer Bill Mott; Barbaro’s full brother Lentenor and Allie’s Event, a Tampa turf specialist.
Duke of Mischief is the most accomplished runner in the field. He totes the largest bankroll into the race, having earned more than $1.7 million for his owners Alex and Joann Lieblong and breeder Marilyn McMaster.
The 6-year-old son of Winding Oaks Farm stallion Graeme Hall made his seasonal bow in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28, finishing fourth in an even effort behind Mucho Macho Man. Trained by David Fawkes, Duke of Mischief has made three previous starts on the turf with one victory. Daniel Centeno, a former leading rider at Tampa who is riding regularly at Gulfstream Park this year, is slated to ride.
Trainer Lori Smock sends out her 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding Allie’s Event in quest of his elusive first stakes victory. The son of Wild Event has finished first or second in all seven starts over the Tampa lawn.
Four weeks ago, Smock made the decision to keep her charge in Oldsmar for the $30,000 Tampa Bay Stakes Prep rather than ship him to Gulfstream Park for the Florida Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes and a showdown against top turf horse Little Mike.
Allie’s Event breezed five furlongs Sunday in 1:03 in preparation for the race.
“I wasn’t looking for a whole lot in his workout,” Smock said. “He is always right there when I run him, and I’m glad to be here at Tampa Bay Downs. I just wish the race was a little farther, but he always puts in a late run, and I don’t see any reason why he won’t this time.”
Jockey Scott Spieth has the return assignment.
Successful Mission, a 6-year-old half-brother to Fountain of Youth Stakes entrant Algorithms, enters today’s fray after a second-place finish on the main track last time out. Trained by Eddie Plesa Jr., Successful Mission is by Successful Appeal out of the Cryptoclearance mare Ava Knowsthecode. He races in the colors of Live Oak Plantation. Jeffrey Sanchez, who won last week’s Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs aboard Great Attack, is the jockey.
Moryba and Lentenor, both figure to attract plenty of attention as well. Moryba kept top company last year for Correas Thoroughbreds Inc., winning two of eight starts and placing in three others. His performances reflect his class. He was narrowly beaten in graded stakes by the likes of Get Stormy, Smart Bid, Sidney’s Candy and Turallure.
Lentenor registered a driving victory over the course on Dec. 23 for trainer Leigh Delacour. The Lael Stables runner is a full brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, being by Dynaformer out of the Carson City mare La Ville Rouge.
Also on Saturday’s card, Tampa Bay Downs star filly It’s Me Mom will face six challengers in a $30,000, 6 ½-furlong handicap for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old, bred and owned by Thomas and Jean Bosch and trained by Lynne Scace, will again be ridden by Willie Martinez.
On Jan. 28, It’s Me Mom won the $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park in 1:08.85 for the six furlongs by almost seven lengths.