Road to the Kentucky Derby: Tampa Bay Derby

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Road to the Kentucky Derby: Tampa Bay Derby
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The Kentucky Derby points race stops at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday for the final time this year for the track’s signature race, the Tampa Bay Derby.

Continuing the recent trend of large Derby prep fields, 12 are entered in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 event. The Tampa Bay Derby is a 100-point race with 50 awarded to the winner, enough to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. The remaining points breakdown in 20-15-10-5 for second through fifth place.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, whose Forte won the Fountain of Youth last week to establish himself as the early Kentucky Derby favorite and the current Derby points leader, has another solid contender in Tapit Trace, the morning-line favorite for the Tampa Bay Derby. Pletcher has won this race five times, but not since 2017. This year’s $400,000 purse is the richest in the race’s 43-year history.

The Road to the Derby takes a week off next week and then ramps up with a trio of 200-point races — the maximum awarded — on March 25. Derby points races continue through April 15, with the top 20 qualifiers earning automatic entry into the 149th Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

Current 2023 Kentucky Derby Qualifier Standings

Rank HorsePoints Earnings
1 Forte 90 $1,783,730
2 Practical Move 60 $372,000
3 Confidence Game 57 $610,480
4 Angel of Empire 54 $287,000
5 Raise Cain 54 $204,750
6 Rocket Can 40 $227,150
7 Red Route One 33 $398,375
8 Instant Coffee 32 $385,065
9 Sun Thunder24 $115,250
10 General Banker 24 $84,000
11 Two Phil’s 23 $235,850
12 Congruent 20 $211,585
13 Hit Show 20 $137,500
14 Litigate 20 $120,000
15 Geaux Rocket Ride 20 $80,000
16 Slip Mahoney 20 $60,000
17 Curly Jack 17 $348,120
18 Blazing Sevens 16 $411,000
19 Artic Arrogance 16 $130,000
20 Reincarnate 15 $149,500

Tampa Bay Derby

Date: Saturday, March 11, 2023

Track: Tampa Bay Downs, Oldsmar, Florida

Distance: 1 1/16 mile

Purse: $400,000

Tampa Bay Derby Analysis

Position HorseTrainer RiderOdds
1 Lord Miles Saffie Joseph Jr. Paco Lopez12-1
2 Classic Car Wash Mark Casse Emisael Jaramillo 8-1
3 Classic Legacy Bill Mott Irad Ortiz Jr. 6-1
4 Groveland Harty Elon Daniel Centeno 6-1
5 Mikey Bananas Timothy Hamm Pablo Morales30-1
6 Tapit Trice Todd Pletcher Luis Saez 8-5
7 Freedom Road Gregory Sacco Hector Diaz Jr.15-1
8 Dreaming of Kona Aldana Spieth Scott Spieth30-1
9 Shesterkin Todd Pletcher Edgar Zayas9-2
10 Champions Dream Mark Casse Antonio Gallardo20-1
11 Zydeceaux Ramon Minguet Samuel Marin20-1
12 Prairie Hawk Saffie Joseph Jr. Samy Camacho20-1

Tampa Bay Derby Analysis

Six of the horses that competed in the Sam F. Davis Stakes a month ago meet again at the same track, including the second through fifth-place finishers. None are likely to be among the top betting choices.

Instead, trainer Todd Pletcher’s Tapit Trice, a $1.3 million purchase who romped to an 8-length allowance victory at Gulfstream Park last month, appears a short-price favorite. Pletcher also has the second betting choice in lightly-raced Shesterkin, who also ships in from Gulfstream Park.

All in the field are in need of Derby points — none are among the top 35 on the Derby points leaderboard. Champions Dream, who finished last in the Sam F. Davis, is the only horse in the field with a graded stakes victory, winning the Nashua at Aqueduct last November as a 2-year-old.

Last year’s Tampa Bay Derby was won by betting favorite Classic Causeway, who went on to finish 11th in the Kentucky Derby. In the previous four years, the Tampa Bay Derby winner was sent off at generous odds of 15-1, 49-1, 8-1 and 19-1.

The last (and only) horse to win the Tampa Bay Derby and Kentucky Derby is Street Sense in 2007. 


More Horse Racing Coverage: Gambling.com horse racing picks


Tampa Bay Derby Selections

Bettors will need to look beyond the favorite if searching for value in this race. If willing to do so, likely pacesetter Zydeceaux is worth considering at long odds. Zydeceaux’s fifth-place finish in the Davis at 43-1 was better than the final result. He set all the fractions on a surface that was not favoring speed that day and showed some grit in the stretch before weakening late, beaten only three lengths. He won the Pasco Stakes in his previous start over this track. The 11 post doesn’t help, and this is far as Zydeceaux wants to run, but if able to establish an uncontested lead, he’s a threat at a big price.

On paper, Tapit Trice looks difficult to beat. His 92 Beyer speed figure last time out is easily the best in the field and a repeat of that allowance victory is good enough to win this. A $1.3 million purchase, expectations are high and he is bred to appreciate longer distances. But from a betting standpoint, the question is whether you’re willing to accept even money or so on a horse that is stepping into stakes company for the first time, and unlike last time out, will race without Lasix.

Classic Legacy was fourth in the Davis and has run a faster speed figure than the time before in each of his last three races. Trainer Bill Mott’s horses generally improve with time and it’s interesting to note that top jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. jumps off Shesterkin to ride Classic Legacy for the first time.

Of the others, Shesterkin finished a distant second to Tapit Trice last time out and has competitive speed figures. … Groveland has not been worse than third in five lifetime starts.  

Tampa Bay Derby Betting Strategy

Win-place bets on Zydeceaux. Exacta and trifecta bets wagers with both Zydeceaux and Tapit Trice on top of Classic Legacy, Shesterkin, Groveland and perhaps Freedom Road.

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Chet Fussman

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