Saturday’s $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) was always the target for Sole Volante following his local victory in the Feb. 8 Sam F. Davis (G3). Chance It was rerouted after being withdrawn from last Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park due to a wide draw.
They highlight a 12-horse field in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier at Tampa Bay Downs.
A total of 85 points (50-20-10-5 scale) will be up for grabs toward a Kentucky Derby berth, and the top draws will meet again after squaring off in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park. Chance It got the better of his rival that afternoon, posting a head victory with Sole Volante 2 1/4 lengths back in third, and the Florida-bred son of Currency Swap will look to carry his momentum forward Saturday.
Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., Chance It reeled off a 7 1/4-length victory over state-bred rivals when annexing the In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Series two starts back at Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile distance. He cut back to a one-turn mile in the Mucho Macho Man, rallying from just off the pace up the inside to gamely defeat subsequent Fountain of Youth third-placer As Seen On Tv, and Chance It will add Paco Lopez and break from post 4 Saturday.
Sole Volante was making his first dirt start in the Mucho Macho Man after capturing a pair of turf starts for Patrick Biancone. The late-running gelding moved forward while stretching out to two turns in the Sam F. Davis, rallying boldly past odds-on favorite Independence Hall to win a widening 2 1/2-length margin, and the son of Karakontie registered a commendable 102 Brisnet Speed rating. Florent Geroux will replace an injured Luca Panici in the saddle.
Sole Volante has been established as the 2-1 morning line favorite, with Chance It the 5-2 second choice.
Market Analysis, who at 8-1 is the only runner listed at single digit odds on the morning line, will make his stakes debut for two-time Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher. A $250,000 son of Honor Code, the gray colt was prominent from the start winning his first outing at Gulfstream on Jan. 25, scoring by nearly a length. He was flattered when runner-up Attachment Rate, who will run in Saturday’s Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, came back to graduate by open lengths the next time out, and John Velazquez will be in to guide the promising Market Analysis.
Spa City jumps to stakes competition for Kiaran McLaughlin after posting a fast maiden win at Gulfstream. Stretching out to two turns last time, the Godolphin homebred son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense earned a 103 Brisnet Speed rating for his front-running tally. Daniel Centeno takes over the reins from an injured Jose Ortiz. Unrighteous, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Spa City in second last time, will also make his initial stakes attempt Saturday. Pletcher trains the dark bay son of Violence, and Unrighteous adds blinkers and shows a 5-furlong bullet work at Palm Beach Downs in preparation. Joe Bravo rides the maiden.
Pletcher has also entered Texas Swing, a last-out maiden winner at Tampa. King Guillermo, third as the favorite to Sole Volante in the grassy Pulpit S. when last seen in late November, will go turf to dirt for Juan Avila in his 3-year-old opener. Samy Camacho will be up on the Uncle Mo colt. Other runners include Holy Bull (G3) fourth-placer Relentless Dancer; last-out maiden victor Mo Mosa; and Bye Bye Melvin, who will switch surfaces after winning two straight on the Tampa turf for Graham Motion.