After watching No Dozing breeze five furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs on Wednesday morning with his wife Leigh in the irons, trainer Arnaud Delacour pronounced the 3-year-old colt a likely starter for Saturday’s Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.
“Everything needs to go well between now and then, but we’re happy with where we’re at right now,” Delacour said. “He started a touch slow today because Leigh had to wait a bit on a horse breezing in front of her, but he was moving well and picked it up nicely.”
Both Delacour and Tampa Bay Downs clocker George Horner timed No Dozing in 1:01 3/5, going the final eighth of a mile in 12 1/5 seconds. “He came back happy, and I’m very encouraged by the way he’s handling his training and behaving,” Delacour said.
No Dozing, a son of Union Rags-Stay Awake, by Pulpit, and owned by the Lael Stables of his breeders, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, is one of seven probables for the 37th edition of the mile-and-a-sixteenth Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, a major “Road to the Kentucky Derby” prep race.
The others currently expected to run include the runner-up in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 11 at Tampa Bay Downs, Tapwrit; third-place Sam F. Davis finisher State of Honor; Wild Shot, who finished fourth; Beasley; Third Day; and Tale of Silence.
A field of at least 10 sophomores is expected after the Sam F. Davis winner, undefeated McCraken, was withdrawn from consideration by trainer Ian Wilkes with an ankle strain.
Each of the current probables, with the exception of Wild Shot, worked out over the last few days, with the Mark Hennig-trained Beasley turning in an eye-opening move of 46.90 for four furlongs Saturday at Gulfstream Park, the fastest of 58 recorded works at the distance.
The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is the centerpiece of a Festival Day card that will be the most lucrative in Oldsmar oval history, offering $925,000 in stakes purses.
Four other stakes will be contested, including the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes, for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; the $100,000 Challenger Stakes, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track; and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf.
As part of the Festival Day program, Tampa Bay Downs will present a commemorative umbrella to each of the first 7,500 fans through the gates, with paid admission. The inside lining of each umbrella is decorated with colorful photographs of each of the 2016 Festival Day stakes winners.
No Dozing, who had finished a strong second in the Grade II Remsen Stakes in his final 2-year-old start on Nov. 26 at Aqueduct, finished an uninspired sixth in the Sam F. Davis, a lackluster performance that mystified his trainer. He had a trouble-free trip, he didn’t bleed and a post-race blood examination revealed no issues.
As well as No Dozing has trained here since Jan. 8, Delacour doesn’t believe he had an issue with the track. So he decided to let No Dozing tell him what came next race-wise, bringing him over for a four-furlong workout on Feb. 26 that convinced him No Dozing deserved another chance against this level of competition.
No Dozing responded with a 47 2/5 move for four furlongs that was the fastest of 62 workouts at the distance that day, and today’s breeze boosted Delacour’s confidence another notch. Leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno is No Dozing’s pilot.
“I wouldn’t run him if I didn’t think he will perform well, and the way he breezed last week was very good,” said Delacour, who saddled Divining Rod for a third-place Tampa Bay Derby finish in 2015. “When you bring a horse over in the afternoon, you always think they can perform, but they have to prove it to you. We’re looking forward to having a fair evaluation and seeing if he fits in the (Kentucky) Derby trail races.”
Delacour also worked his 7-year-old Eclipse Award Sprint finalist, A.P. Indian. The multiple-Grade I winner, who is being pointed toward the Grade III Commonwealth Stakes on April 8 at Keeneland, breezed four furlongs in 49 seconds.
Tapwrit, owned by Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert V. LaPenta, worked four furlongs Saturday at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach in 50 4/5 seconds. Tapwrit trainer Todd Pletcher, who also conditions Third Day, has won three of the last four runnings of the race, including last year with Destin.
State of Honor, owned by Conrad Farms and trained by Mark Casse, breezed four furlongs Friday in 47.75 seconds at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach.
At least eight fillies are expected to run in the 19th Hillsborough Stakes, which in recent years has been won by such top-flight turf females as Zagora (2012), Stephanie’s Kitten (2015) and last year’s winner, Tepin.
Expected to head the field is the Pletcher-trained 5-year-old mare Isabella Sings, who won the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes here on Feb. 11 by three lengths with her exciting front-running style.
Other likely starters include Grade III winners Dickinson, Evidently and My Impression, as well as Grade III winner Family Meeting, who was third in last year’s Florida Oaks.
A large field is also likely for the 34th Oaks, headed by a trio of fillies that competed in the Breeders’ Cup in November at Santa Anita. Included in that group is the Ken McPeek-trained Daddys Lil Darling, who finished fourth in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and has a victory in the Grade II Pocahontas Stakes and a pair of graded second-place efforts to her credit.
Other probables include the fifth and sixth-place finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Rymska and La Coronel. Both are Grade III winners, with Rymska trained by 2017 Eclipse Award Outstanding Trainer Chad Brown and La Coronel conditioned by Mark Casse.
The 26th Challenger Stakes, with a rich history that includes the 2012 victory by subsequent Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned, is expected to draw last year’s winner, 8-year-old gelding Adirondack King, from the barn of John Servis. Other probables include multiple-Grade II winner Blofeld, from the barn of trainer George “Rusty” Arnold, II; multiple graded-stakes winner Stanford, trained by Pletcher; the Argentine multiple Group I-winning Idolo Porteno, trained by Ignacio Correas, IV; and Grade III winner Ami’s Flatter, a Josie Carroll-trainee who finished second in the 2015 Tampa Bay Derby.
At least eight sophomores are expected to compete in the Columbia Stakes, which was run as the Chris Thomas Turf Classic from 2000-2009.