Classic Causeway Heads Field in Tampa Bay Derby

Tampa Bay Derby

A field of 12 line up in the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. (Photo credit: Tampa Bay Downs).

Horses such as Classic Causeway, the authoritative winner of the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 12 and Grade I and Grade II-placed as a 2-year-old, don’t come along every day.

Neither does the chance to upset such a talent for the lion’s share of a $400,000 purse – not to mention coveted “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points.

Those facts have combined to create a 12-horse field of 3-year-olds for Saturday’s Grade II, mile-and-a-sixteenth Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, the centerpiece of a Festival Day 42 card offering five stakes races, four graded, worth a combined $1-million in purse money.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is the 11th race on the card, with a scheduled post time of 5:23 p.m. The first of 12 races is at 12:15 p.m.

The exceptional lineup also consists of the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf, which is the seventh race; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf, which is the ninth; the Grade III, $100,000 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes for horses 4-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track, which is the eighth; and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes, for 3-year-olds going a mile on the turf, which is the 10th race.

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Classic Causeway the Morning Line Favorite

Classic Causeway, who is expected to be the wagering favorite, drew the No. 4 post position for the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Irad Ortiz, Jr., who was aboard for his Sam F. Davis Stakes victory, will again ride Classic Causeway for owners Kentucky West Racing, LLC and Clarke M. Cooper and trainer Brian Lynch.

The top four finishers will receive 50, 20, 10 and 5 points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs. Classic Causeway is 11th in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” standings with 16 points.

One of the largest crowds in track history is expected Saturday. The 12-race card begins at noon, with gates opening at 10 a.m. General-admission tickets are $15, with the first 5,000 fans through the gates receiving a ”Mystery Mutuel Voucher” worth from $5-$1,000, with paid admission.

Among Classic Causeway’s Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby rivals are Giant Game, the third-place finisher in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar, trained by Dale Romans and to be ridden by Joe Talamo from the No. 5 post; Major General, winner of the Grade III Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 18 at Churchill Downs in his most recent start, trained by five-time Tampa Bay Derby-winning conditioner Todd Pletcher, with Javier Castellano named to ride from the No. 8 post; and two-time stakes winner and Sam F. Davis runner-up Shipsational, trained by Edward Barker, with Manuel Franco aboard from the No. 9 post.

Nine Go in Hillsborough

Nine horses are entered in the Hillsborough, in which a highly anticipated rematch is slated between 4-year-old fillies Bleecker Street (4-for-4) and Lady Speightspeare, the 1-2 finishers in the Grade III Endeavour Stakes here on Feb. 5. Bleecker Street is trained by Chad Brown, who is tied with Pletcher for most Hillsborough victories with four apiece.

Bleecker Street will be ridden by Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr., the only jockey she has known. Lady Speightspeare, a Grade I winner as a 2-year-old, is trained by Roger Attfield and has the services of Emma-Jayne Wilson, her only rider in six career starts.

Nine horses are entered in the Florida Oaks, with trainer Mark Casse’s Mrs. Barbara and H. Graham Motion’s Ambitieuse among the top contenders. Mrs. Barbara, who will be ridden by Rafael Manuel Hernandez, won the Grade III Mazarine Stakes on Nov. 28 on the all-weather track at Woodbine in her most recent start, while Ambitieuse, whose jockey will be Franco, was second in the Grade III Sweetest Chant Stakes on Feb. 5 at Gulfstream Park.

Also a strong contender is Alittleloveandluck, with Paco Lopez riding for trainer Mike Dini. She won the Ginger Brew Stakes on Jan. 1 on the turf at Gulfstream and was second in last month’s Suncoast Stakes here on the main track.

A field of 10 older horses is expected for the Challenger Stakes. The seemingly omnipresent Pletcher has won the Challenger four times, including in 2017 with track record-holder Stanford, and he will send two out this year: 4-year-old Dynamic One, to be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., and 5-year-old War Stopper, who was third in last year’s Challenger, to be ridden by Franco.

NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

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