Saturday’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby has lured Sam F. Davis winner Battle Hardened and most likely four of the top five other finishers that chased him at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 4.
Battle Hardened and Davis runner-up Prospective showed their readiness with recent solid workouts at the Palm Meadows training facility in South Florida.
Battle Hardened, who broke his maiden by 1 ¼ lengths in the Davis under jockey Julien Leparoux, breezed five furlongs in 1:02 on March 3. The son of Giant’s Causeway finished second in two of his three other starts.
Five of the past Davis runners that hit the board in the 21st Century won the Tampa Bay Derby. The last double victor was Burning Roma in 2001.
Prospective, who also captured the Pasco Stakes on Jan. 14 at Tampa Bay Downs with Luis Contreras in the irons, impressed clockers breezing four furlongs in 48 4/5 on March 2. The son of Malibu Moon won the Grey Stakes at Woodbine in October.
Others exiting the Davis likely for the 32nd running of the track’s showcase race at 1 1/16th miles are Reveron, third, 3-1-2 in six outings; Ravelo’s Boy, fourth, who last was successful in December at Gulfstream Park; and Fox Rules, who hasn’t won since last summer.
The expected full field may include Take Charge Indy, runner-up in a Gulfstream allowance contest captured by Risen Star victor El Padrino; Golden Ticket, who recently broke his maiden in a Gulfstream allowance race; and Spring Hill Farm, who led from start to finish in his only two races, both at Gulfstream.
Two of the past half-dozen Kentucky Derby champs, Street Sense in ’07 and Super Saver in ’10, competed in the Tampa Bay Derby. Street Sense was victorious while Super Saver ran third in the Grade 2.
The racing surface at Tampa Bay Downs makes special demands on horses because of its sandy surface. That might help Reveron, who is 2-1-1 in four trips over Calder Race Course’s main track, which has a similar composition.
Horses training and racing on harder surfaces will have to be fit to handle it. If giant Belmont Park can be called the Big Sandy, Tampa Bay Downs can be called the Little Big Sandy.
Winners of the Tampa Bay Derby often launch their drive in the turn before reaching the short 976-foot stretch. Horses whose best races have been at Belmont do better than those that raced at Churchill Downs.