Tapit Trice will look to give trainer Todd Pletcher a sweep of the Kentucky Derby (G1) preps at Tampa Bay Downs this winter when he lines up as the likely favorite in Saturday’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G3).
Although downgraded from a Grade 2 this year, the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby will still award the winner 50 qualifying points toward the Run for the Roses, essentially a guaranteed placement in the Churchill Downs starting gate. The respective second- through fifth-place finishers will earn 20-15-10-5 points.
A winner in two of three starts to date, Tapit Trice turned heads at Gulfstream on Feb. 4, winning an allowance by eight lengths over his odds-on favored stablemate Shesterkin, who re-opposes here. That race was over a one-turn mile, but neither colt figures to be hindered stretching out.
Litigate, who captured the Sam F. Davis (G3) earlier in the Tampa meet for Pletcher, was not entered in the Tampa Bay Derby, but several of his closest pursuers in that race are back. They include runner-up Groveland, who finished 1 1/4 lengths behind Litigate, and Classic Car Wash, who beat Classic Legacy for fourth by a head. Zydeceaux, who set the pace in the Davis before fading to fifth, is another returnee.
Other Sam Davis also-rans were entered in the Tampa Bay Derby, but all will have to show significant improvement. That group includes Dreaming of Kona, Prairie Hawk, and Champions Dream.
Newcomers to Tampa’s Derby trail include Lord Miles, a distant sixth in the Holy Bull (G3) last out; Freedom Road, a local allowance winner over six furlongs in January; and Mikey Bananas, distantly placed in a trio of entry-level allowances this winter.