Rebounding from a fourth in the Nov. 8 Nashua (G3), Nova Rags justified 13-10 favoritism in Saturday’s $50,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The Bill Mott trainee did his best work late in the 7-furlong event, a prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1) points races at the Oldsmar oval – the Feb. 6 Sam F. Davis (G3) and Mar. 6 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
Nova Rags settled within striking range of a contested early pace. Front-running Ahimelech was pressed by Foreman through fast fractions of :22.44 and :45.59, with The Distractor and Newyearsblockparty in pursuit. Newyearsblockparty was the first to pounce on the far turn, angling off the fence to split foes and take charge.
Jockey Samy Camacho was already stoking up Nova Rags, who advanced widest of all to challenge entering the stretch. The 16-1 Newyearsblockparty dug in gamely in response, reaching 6 furlongs in 1:11.21, but Nova Rags was too strong. Hitting top gear in the final furlong, the favorite drew off by a comfortable 2 3/4 lengths, ears pricked, in 1:24.55.
“I was a little worried at the three-eighths pole, because (Newyearsblockparty) was going between horses and I had to start working,” Camacho told track publicity. “But I hit him once at the top of the stretch and he responded, and when he switched leads in the stretch it was ‘Bye.’ ”
Newyearsblockparty held second by three-quarters of a length from Foreman. Next came The Distractor, Thealligatorhunter, Little Demon, Distorted Limits, and a tailed-off Ahimelech.
A homebred campaigned by Michael P. Shanley, Nova Rags has earned $70,650 from a 3-2-0-0 line. The Union Rags colt won over 6 furlongs on debut at Belmont Park Oct. 10, but faded to a distant fourth in the Nashua. His Pasco score gets him back on track to stretch out.
“It’s what we were hoping for,” assistant trainer Mark Schreiber said. “His last race was a little disappointing, but he was kind of shying from horses on the outside of him and he needed to mature a little.
“Samy rode him perfectly today and it looks like he will stretch out. All along, Bill (Mott) saw a lot in this horse.”
Nova Rags, who RNA’d for $275,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, is a half-brother to multiple Grade 2 winner Juanita as well as sprint stakes victor Sirocco Strike. They are out of Grade 3-placed stakes heroine Wishful Splendor, a Smart Strike half-sister to Grade 1 queen Private Persuasion. This is the immediate family of two notables from the 2008 Triple Crown – Da’ Tara, the Belmont (G1) shocker, and Denis of Cork, runner-up to his relative in the Belmont and third in the Kentucky Derby.
The companion $75,000 Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies served up a more dramatic finish, as 13-1 Special Princess rallied from last to dead-heat with 4-1 pacesetter Adios Trippi. The 11-10 favorite, Feeling Mischief, was a one-paced third.
Adios Trippi, coming off a third in the Jan. 1 Cash Run at Gulfstream Park, nearly pulled off the wire job. Trained by Peter Walder and ridden by Antonio Gallardo, the Adios Charlie filly dictated splits of :22.57, :45.65, and 1:11.89. Her well-fancied pursuers, Feeling Mischief and Big Rings, were not lifting, but as Adios Trippi was looking for the wire, an unexpected threat emerged.
Special Princess, who had finished sixth behind Feeling Mischief in the Dec. 5 Sandpiper and second in a Dec. 20 allowance, was relishing the added ground. Rolling late for Ademar Santos, the Walter Woodard pupil joined Adios Trippi on the line in 1:24.89.
The Florida-bred dead-heaters had 1 3/4 lengths to spare over Feeling Mischief. Big Rings flattened out in fourth, followed by Charge It All, the winner of that Dec. 20 allowance; Make a Scene; and Marketability.
Adios Trippi sports a record of 4-2-0-1, $88,900. Produced by the Trippi mare Stage Trip, she was acquired by Paradise Farms Corp., Brian Hanley, Greg Boyer, Scott Estes, and Walder Racing after her Parx maiden win.
J D Farms’ homebred Special Princess has compiled a mark of 7-2-1-1, $95,275. The first black-type winner sired by Bahamian Squall, she is out of the Shaniko mare Indy Crown, a descendant of champion Smart Angle.
Wrapping up the Tampa stakes action, 7-10 favorite Lucky Stride closed from far back to capture the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes for older distaffers. Gallardo guided the Michael Trombetta mare to a 2 1/4-length tally over On the Town while completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.24.
The result was another form boost for the Nov. 28 Thirty Eight Go Go at Laurel, where Lucky Stride and On the Town finished second and third, respectively, to Eres Tu. The latter had since come back to add the Dec. 26 Allaire DuPont (G3).
Sonata Stable’s Lucky Stride was notching her first victory on the mainland after being a win machine in Puerto Rico. The daughter of Declaration of War went 8-for-11, with three seconds, at Camarero. Fifth in last summer’s Shuvee (G3) at Saratoga, Lucky Stride switched to turf and wound up third in the Violet at Monmouth and fourth in the Zagora at Belmont. She appreciated getting back on dirt in her last pair. Lucky Stride’s overall resume now reads 16-9-4-1, $171,550.
Lucky Stride’s dam, Magical Madison, is by the Deputy Minister stallion Ghostly Minister. Magical Madison is a half-sister to Giovanni Boldini, best known for just missing in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).