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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Trainer Quartet Seeking Second Tampa Bay Derby Win


 According to stakes coordinator Gerry Stanislawzyk, the field for Saturday's Grade II Tampa Bay Derby is taking shape. At least eight 3-year-olds, five of them stakes winners, and four trainers with wins of this race are expected. 

Todd Pletcher, who won the 2004 Tampa Bay Derby with Limehouse, brings in Verrazano. The son of More Than Ready has won two starts, both at Gulfstream Park, under John Velazquez by a combined 24 lengths -- earning Beyer Speed Figures of 94 and 105. He breezed four furlongs Sunday at Palm Meadows in :48.39.

The Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner, Falling Sky, returns after scratching from the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes a little over a week ago. He won the Davis less than three weeks before being purchased for $425,000 at the OBS winter mixed sale.

Trainer John Terranova II cross-entered Falling Sky in the Davis and the Hutcheson Stakes. Luis Saez decided to remain at Gulfstream on Feb. 2, and unsung New York journeyman Jose Espinoza picked up the mount and guided Falling Sky to a gate-to-wire victory. The colt breezed five furlongs Sunday in :59.78, fastest of 21 workouts at the distance at Palm Meadows.

Dynamic Sky’s rally in the Davis came up a neck short, but the Mark Casse-trained colt has two races over the surface. the Ontario-bred Dynamic Sky is following the same path as Prospective, Casse’s 2012 Tampa Bay Derby winner. Both of them won Tampa's Pasco Stakes in their 3-year-old debuts before finishing second in the Davis.

Dynamic Sky finished sixth in last fall’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, beaten 5 1/4 lengths by Shanghai Bobby. Dynamic Sky also worked Sunday at Palm Meadows, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.87. Along with Pletcher, Casse is one of four trainers with Tampa Bay Derby victories expected to vie for another.

Nick Zito won the 2005 Tampa Bay Derby with Sun King, and he's expected back on Saturday with Eton Blue.

Eton Blue, a son of Giant’s Causeway out of Whitney’s Bird Town, finished second to Verrazano Feb. 2 at Gulfstream in an allowance/optional claiming race, albeit by 16-plus lengths, while giving four pounds to the winner. He breezed four furlongs Saturday at Palm Meadows in :47.04, second-fastest of 30 works at the distance.

Fourteen years ago, Kenny McPeek won the Tampa Bay Derby with Pineaff. He's expected to send Java’s War here for his 2013 debut. A bred son of War Pass, Java’s War turned in a bullet five-furlong workout of :59.89 Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Java’s War won the Sunday Silence Stakes at Louisiana Downs on the turf last September and was third in the Grade I Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, beaten three-quarters of a length by runner-up Dynamic Sky.

Honorable Dillon, trained by Eddie Kenneally, won the seven-furlong, Grade II Hutcheson at Gulfstream on Feb. 2. The Davis will be his first race at two turns.

The Jane Cibelli-trained Purple Egg will put his three-for-three record on the line. He won the Dec. 1 Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and has been away from the races since. He's based at the track.

Offlee Fast, from the barn of Ronald Pellegrini, was second by a head to Pletcher’s Capo Bastone in his previous start on Feb. 16 at Gulfstream Park.

Also on tap Saturday are the Grade III Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 mile on the turf, and the Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and 40 yards on the main track. A full field of 12 is expected for the Hillsborough and seven to nine for the Suncoast.

Edited Tampa Bay Downs release with additional content by Dick Downey

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