A full field has been assembled for Saturday’s $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), an 85-point Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier (50-20-10-5 scale for top four), and Sam F. Davis (G3) winner Classic Causeway will be the horse to beat.
Earlier on the program, Grade 2 winner Greatest Honour, a serious contender for the 2021 Kentucky Derby before being sidelined, will return to the races in the $100,000 Challenger S. (G3).
Tampa Bay Derby (G2) – Race 11 (5:23 p.m. ET)
Following a couple of placings in juvenile stakes, Classic Causeway looked much-improved when making his three-year-old debut in the Feb. 12 Davis at Tampa, drawing off to a 3 3/4-length win. The front-running Giant’s Causeway colt took serious pressure on the front end before asserting his superiority, and Classic Causeway should be a prohibitive favorite over 11 rivals Saturday. Irad Ortiz Jr. retains the assignment for Brian Lynch.
Major General, last seen winning the Iroquois S. (G3) at Churchill Downs in mid-September, may be the second choice in his three-year-old opener. By Constitution, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt has captured both career starts, and Javier Castellano will be back aboard.
Shipsational caught the eye rallying for second in the Davis, his first outing since winning back-to-back New York-bred stakes at Belmont Park last fall. Ed Barker trains the Midshipman colt, and Manny Franco will replace Castellano in the saddle.
Other contestants in the 1 1/16-mile race include Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) third Giant Game, who will try to rebound from an eighth in the Feb. 5 Holy Bull (G3); Belgrade, who will make his stakes debut after capturing both career starts at odds-on; Grantham, fourth when making his stakes bow in the Withers (G3) last out; Happy Boy Rocket, a convincing last-out maiden scorer at Gulfstream for Bill Mott; and Money Supply, who won at first asking by a two-length margin at Tampa for Chad Brown.
Challenger (G3) – Race 8 (3:49 p.m. ET)
Greatest Honour reeled off three consecutive wins at Gulfstream last winter, including the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Holy Bull (G3), before finishing a belated third as the odds-on favorite in the Florida Derby (G1). That marked his final start of the season, and trainer Shug McGaughey will bring the Tapit colt back from a 350-day layoff against nine rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Challenger.
Jose Ortiz will be up on Greatest Honour, who will square off against a couple of runners from last year’s Kentucky Derby, Dynamic One and Hidden Stash.
After a head second in the Wood Memorial (G2), Dynamic One never ran a step finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby. THe Pletcher-trained colt came back to win the Curlin S. at Saratoga in his next outing, but Dynamic One hasn’t started since a seventh in the Travers (G1). Irad Ortiz has the call.
Runner-up in last year’s Tampa Bay Derby, Hidden Stash received a lengthy vacation following a 14th in the Kentucky Derby. He’ll return to the main track, and stakes competition, following a couple of placings in turf allowances this year, and Daniel Centeno rides for Vicki Oliver.
Shirl’s Speight merits respect on the surface switch, recording a convincing triumph in the Tampa Bay S. (G3) on Feb. 5. Cody’s Wish, unraced since taking back-to-back allowances at Churchill last fall, will make his anticipated stakes debut for Mott with a three-race win streak in tow.