2017 Tampa Bay Derby Preview

2017 Tampa Bay Derby Has No Favorites

Originally, McCraken was supposed to headline the 2017 Tampa Bay Derby but he is dealing with what people are calling a “minor injury”. As such, the odds for this Kentucky Derby prep race have been blown wide open. There are six viable contenders who will attempt to assert themselves amongst their three-year-old colleagues.

The official favorite on the morning line is Tapwrit, a son of Tapit who lost to McCraken in the 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes. He is a very interesting prospect who is working with Todd Pletcher. Known as a late charging runner, Tapwrit could definitely tip the scales in his favor at the 2017 Tampa Bay Derby on a fast track.

There are several horses who will return to Tampa Bay Downs after the Sam F. Davis. Most noted in the field is Wild Shot who looked strong on the inside before falling to fourth in the aforementioned race. He is a front running specialist who needs to prove that he can close a race before you invest fully in him. Wild Shot is 5/1 to win the 2017 Tampa Bay Derby.

State of Honor will also try to defeat Tapwrit after finishing 3rd in the Sam F. Davis. He boasts 4/1 odds as the second choice. Also in the running is No Dozing, a 6/1 outside shot who fell to 6th at the Sam F. Davis. To shed light on what 6/1 odds look like in this race, consider that Sonic Mule has similar odds but fell to 3rd at the Swale Stakes recently.

Beasley is the great unknown in the 2017 Tampa Bay Derby. This will be his stakes debut but everything coming out of his camp is overtly positive. If you’re looking for a dark horse play in a wide open race, then this is your colt.

Rounding out the field are Tale of Silence, The Money Monster, Basha and Zion Valley.

2017 Tampa Bay Derby – Saturday, March 11th at Tampa Bay Down
1 1/16th Miles – Three Year Olds – $350,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Tale of Silence (KY) Paco Lopez 116 Barclay Tagg 15/1
2 The Money Monster (KY) Joel Rosario 116 William I. Mott 15/1
3 Basha (KY) Emisael Jaramillo 116 Gilberto Zerpa 12/1
4 No Dozing (KY) Daniel Centeno 116 Arnaud Delacour 6/1
5 Tapwrit (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 116 Todd A. Pletcher 3/1
6 Beasley (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 116 Mark A. Hennig 9/2
7 Sonic Mule (KY) John R. Velazquez 118 Todd A. Pletcher 6/1
8 State of Honor (ON) Julien R. Leparoux 116 Mark E. Casse 4/1
9 Wild Shot (KY) Robby Albarado 116 George R. Arnold, II 5/1
10 Zion Valley (NY) Huber Villa-Gomez 116 Kevin Rice 50/1
2017 Fountain of Youth

‘War Cry’ Falls At 2017 Fountain of Youth

There was no doubt that the pressure at the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes hosted by Gulfstream fell squarely on the shoulders of Irish War Cry. The winner of the Holy Bull Stakes one month earlier had moved steadfastly in to second place on the KDFW as a 7/1 option to win the Kentucky Derby, and his new backers needed a confidence boosting win. They didn’t get it.

The race looked promising for Irish War Cry at the beginning as he battled Three Rules for the lead. The other top choice on the board were Practical Joke at 3/1 and Gunnevera at 4/1. Neither got off to a great start. In fact, Gunnevera was last out of the gates to being the $400,000 challenge.

Three Rules, Irish Wary Cry were joined by longshots Takaful and Made You Look through the first half-mile, which was blitzed in :47.18 and everything in the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes shifted at that point. Practical Joke was given the green light to go all out, and he was pursued by Gunnevera who marched steadily along the outside as he overtook the remainder of the field. Three Rules had extended a lead over Irish War Cry who didn’t seem to have another level in this one. He was asked at the top of the final corner, but didn’t respond.

Instead it was Practical Joke and Three Rules who would begin the battle of the home stretch only to be overtaken by a streaming Gunnevera who had a clean run to the finish line. Gunnevera won the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes in a time of 1:44.25, nearly two second slower than the results at the Holy Bull. Practical Joke came second while Three Rules showed well in third place. Irish War Cry fell all the way to seventh, which was ironic given his newly minted 7/1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby in the futures market.

The 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes was yet another example of this year’s muddled Road to the Kentucky Derby. There are no clear cut favourites and horses like Gunnevera can have their day on any Saturday. He’s certainly one to keep tabs on, but I wouldn’t invest whole heartedly in any of the top rivals from this race until we see them compete again at the Florida Derby.


El Areeb Looks to Keep Win Streak Alive

Heading into the $300,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday, March 4, El Areeb looks to keep his four-race win streak in tact. The last two wins of El Areeb have been of the graded stakes variety — Wither Stakes (G3) and Jerome Stakes (G3) — and he will be the horse to beat in the Gotham Stakes since no other horse has ever won a graded stakes race.

Not only is El Areeb riding a four-race win streak, but he’s done so in a dominating fashion, winning those four races by a combined 29 1/2 lengths. His Jerome Stakes win was especially impressive, as he beat runner-up Bonus Points by 11 1/4 lengths.

In his two workouts since winning the Withers Stakes, El Areeb has showed no signs of slowing down. On February 18 he worked a half-mile in :47 4/5 and on February 26 he ran five-furlongs in 1:00 4/5.

The Gotham Stakes is a big part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying points prep race schedule, with a win earning 50 points. El Areeb currently sits in fourth place with 20 points. A win would jolt him right to the top of the standings. Trainer Cathal Lynch was going to skip the Gotham and focus on the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2), but El Areeb’s recent training sessions persuaded him to change his mind.

“That was my plan originally, to skip the Gotham and wait for the Wood, but he’s been doing so well,” said Lynch. “That’s a scary thing about him (in the mornings). He looks like he’s two-minute licking and then you look down at the watch and it’s :47, 1:00, 1:13, and stuff. He’s clicking right along.

“He’s been doing it fairly easy and acting like he wants to go do something,” continued Lynch. “We won’t stand in his way. I didn’t know if I really felt like sitting on him for another four weeks if he’s going right.”

Practical Joke Makes Season Debut in Fountain of Youth

Will Practical Joke’s Potential be Realized at Age 3?

Chad Brown is an Eclipse Award winning trainer who has won Breeders’ Cup races and conditioned many Grade I winners. But the award-winning trainer has yet to win a Triple Crown race. On Saturday in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes, we’ll find out if his 2-time Grade I winner Practical Joke is ready to realize his potential and earn a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby.

“Me and my team really want to win our first classic on the dirt with a colt, and we’re getting horses in the barn with that potential,” Brown said Wednesday at Palm Meadows. “Winning those races is very difficult. Every trainer will tell you that. We’re trying to get those ourselves.”

Practical Joke won the first three starts of his career last year, including the Hopeful Stakes and the Champagne, then was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The Breeders’ Cup was the first time Practical Joke went two turns. He’ll get another chance in the Fountain of Youth, which is the first of two preps Brown has slated for Practical Joke prior to the Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

“He’s training well enough to win, but it’s important to get him to where he needs to go next,” Brown said. “You’re trying to get them to develop, to peak on the right day.”

Practical Joke is an outstanding-looking son of Into Mischief, and Brown likes what he sees and the colt’s potential and progression.

“Some don’t change from 2 to 3, but I like what I’ve seen of his progression in terms of how he’s grown, improving mentally, how he’s trained, how he’s worked. He hasn’t run, but he’s been doing all the things you like to see.”

Practical Joke was a $240,000 yearling purchase in September 2015. He debuted with a five-length victory going six furlongs last August at Saratoga and came back four weeks later to capture the seven-furlong Hopeful (G1) by a neck.

Stretched out to a mile for his next start, the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park, Practical Joke rallied from off the pace again to prevail by a nose over the similarly well-regarded Syndergaard. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic he was jostled at the start and raced wide to the half-mile pole, looming a threat at the top of the stretch before settling for third.

Brown said he would not be surprised to see Practical Joke laying a little closer in the Fountain of Youth due to the layoff and his recent training. Reunited with jockey Jose Ortiz, last aboard in the Hopeful, he will break from Post 6 in the field of 11 and is rated second on the morning line at 3-1.

“I could see him being a little sharper in this race. He’s definitely been on his toes in the morning,” he said. “I think he’s going to run really well. Going two turns off a layoff like this is a tall order, and I understand that. As long as he runs well, I’ll be happy to build off this. The way he is training, I would expect him to run well.”

The Fountain of Youth is the last of 13 races on a blockbuster card that features nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.5 million in purses. First race post time is noon, with a 6:05 p.m. post for the Fountain of Youth.

Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2)

Gulfstream Park, Saturday, March 04, 2017, Race 13
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $400,000
  • 3 yo
  • 6:05 PM ET (local)
2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes

Irish War Cry Heads 2017 Fountain of Youth

No race presents more intrigue this weekend than the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes. As a stop on the derby trail it offers a 50-40-20-10 point disbursal for the top-four finishers, and the 11 horse field will also be vying for their share of the massive $400,000 purse. But the focus remains transfixed on the top contenders proving that they are worth backing down the stretch in to the Triple Crown.

Irish War Cry is undoubtedly facing the most scrutiny. Undefeated in three starts, the surprise contender out of Graham Motion’s camp stole a victory at the 2017 Holy Bull Stakes and did enough to thunder to the front of the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager market as well. The three-year-old now has 7/1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby, sitting right behind new favorite McCraken at 6/1.

This is not the home run that it might seem on paper. Irish War Cry was an outside shot at the Holy Bull, and while he’ll be favored at the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes, he still has plenty to prove before the sport is convinced that he is the competitor that many are hoping he can be.

Challenging for the winner’s circle in the 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes will be Practical Joke who will make his season debut at Gulfstream this weekend. The third place finisher at the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile remains one of the more promising talents amongst the the three-year-olds this season, but is a bit late to the party. There is some optimism that he has matured and he is well worth a look as a place bet.

The dark horse in the field is Hurcana Americo, an American-born import trained in Brazil. Not much is known, but as you’d expect his connections are talking up a big game. There’s a reason he’s been returned to his native land, and I’d venture to guess that this big Kentucky Derby prep race will reveal his caliber. I would not sleep on him entirely.

Rounding out the top of the field are Talk Logistics (4th at Holy Bull), Three Rules (2nd at Swale Stakes) and Gunnevera (2nd at Holy Bull). Also included are Made You Look, Beasley, Lookin for Eight and Quinientos who will enter as longshots.

The 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes is essentially a proving ground for Practical Joke and Irish War Cry. Depending on how you feel about the Holy Bull, they are the most logical exacta box play. If you are asking me to pick between the two of them, I prefer Practical Joke. I don’t actually believe that Irish War Cry is the real deal but I’m willing to be proven wrong.