Candy Man Rocket Faces Pletcher Pair in Tampa Bay Derby
RSS Feeds Friday, March 5, 2021

Between Hall of Famer Bill Mott and 2021 Hall of Fame finalist and all-but-certain inductee Todd Pletcher, the two trainers have combined to win the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) seven times, including five times over the last eight runnings.

That winning trend may continue March 6 in the $400,000 race, where two-time Tampa Bay Derby winner Mott has the probable favorite in Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) winner Candy Man Rocket and five-time Tampa Bay Derby winner Pletcher has a pair of promising last-out maiden winners in Promise Keeper and Unbridled Honor. The three are some of the headliners in the 1 1/16-mile race, an official Road to the Kentucky Derby prep that offers points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to its first four finishers.

Even before the points system began in 2013, the race had an impact on the Triple Crown. Its 2007 winner, Street Sense, won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) that year, and Super Saver took the Derby three years later after a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby. 

More recently, Tapwrit won the Tampa Bay Derby and Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) in 2017.

Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby could be run on a wet track. As of 9:30 a.m. ET March 4, the National Weather Service forecast an 80% chance of showers Saturday in Tampa with the potential for a half-inch of precipitation.

Candy Man Rocket, a son of Candy Ride owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations, is 2-for-3, having won a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park in his second career start after a debut seventh in the slop at Churchill Downs. Then stretching out for the first time in the Sam F. Davis, he pulled ahead in the lead and opened up a 2 1/2-length lead in midstretch before lasting by a length over stablemate Nova Rags, who is skipping the Tampa Bay Derby.

Quick-working Hidden Stash, third in the Sam F. Davis, does return, as does Boca Boy, the fourth-place finisher and early pacesetter. The latter is a dual winner in the slop.

Promise Keeper - Maiden Win, Gulfstream Park, February 6, 2021
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
Promise Keeper splashes home to break his maiden at Gulfstream Park

Promise Keeper, a son by Constitution owned by Woodford Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm, and Rock Ridge Racing, will likely be the shorter odds of Pletcher's two entries, coming off a second-out victory over a sloppy Gulfstream Park track by five lengths Feb. 6. That followed a fourth to Candy Man Rocket in his Jan. 9 debut at Gulfstream for the Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds-bred runner.

Unbridled Honor took longer to graduate, winning by a half-length in his third start, also Feb. 6, though over the Tampa Bay Downs surface as a race on the Sam F. Davis undercard. The Honor Code home-bred colt for Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm has fired two bullet works at Palm Beach Downs leading into the Tampa Bay Derby.

Also entered are stakes winners Super StrongHelium, and Sittin On Go. Super Strong adds blinkers, while another entrant, Awesome Gerry, races with blinkers off.

Unlike in most stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, the use of Lasix is prohibited for starters in the Tampa Bay Derby, a requirement by Churchill Downs officials for the race to remain eligible for Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Four of the 12 entrants, including the Pletcher duo, raced with Lasix in their previous starts.

The Tampa Bay Derby is one of five stakes at the track on Saturday, including the $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes (G2T), the $200,000 Florida Oaks (G3T), and the $100,000 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes (G3).


Tampa Bay Downs, Saturday, March 06, 2021, Race 11

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt 
  • $400,000
  • 3 yo
  • 5:25 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 My Liberty (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Tomas B. Mejia 117 Maria Ines Mejia 30/1
2 Super Strong (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Antonio A. Gallardo 117 Saffie A. Joseph, Jr. 8/1
3 Candy Man Rocket (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Junior Alvarado 119 William I. Mott 2/1
4 King of Dreams (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Samy Camacho 117 Juan Carlos Avila 20/1
5 Boca Boy (FL) Angel S. Arroyo 119 Cheryl Winebaugh 15/1
6 Awesome Gerry (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr. 117 Saffie A. Joseph, Jr. 15/1
7 Moonlite Strike (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Daniel Centeno 117 Saffie A. Joseph, Jr. 20/1
8 Hidden Stash (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Rafael Bejarano 117 Victoria H. Oliver 4/1
9 Unbridled Honor (KY) Julien R. Leparoux 117 Todd A. Pletcher 20/1
10 Helium (KY) Jose C. Ferrer 117 Mark E. Casse 6/1
11 Promise Keeper (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Luis Saez 117 Todd A. Pletcher 8/1
12 Sittin On Go (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Roberto Alvarado, Jr. 119 Dale L. Romans 20/1


Courtesy of the Bloodhorse

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