01/21/2016 11:10AM

Awesome Slate new shooter in Pasco

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Formal Summation, winning the Laurel Futurity in September, is among the top contenders in the Pasco Stakes on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – The $100,000 Pasco Stakes lost its likely favorite earlier this month when it was discovered that Ishaq, the undefeated winner of the $67,500 Inaugural Stakes here on Dec. 19, had a chip in his knee that will keep him out of action for four months.

But no worries. Saturday’s seven-furlong test for 3-year-olds still features a pair of stakes winners in Awesome Slate and Formal Summation, who could vie for favoritism in the field of 10.

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Awesome Slate will be making his first start for trainer Brian Lynch after dominating his last two starts at Northlands Park in October for trainer Tim Rycroft. The front-running son of Summer Bird won a second-level allowance by 4 1/2 lengths and romped by 7 3/4 lengths in the $37,981 Canadian Juvenile to close out 2015.

Awesome Slate has been training steadily at Palm Meadows for his 3-year-old debut and will have Angel Serpa aboard for the first time Saturday.

“He’s certainly trained well leading up to this, and I feel that it’s certainly worth taking a shot in there, the way he’s training,” Lynch said. “He seems like an honest type, and it seems like his heart is in the right spot. He’s a tough little guy, and he’s ready to run.”

Formal Summation won the $75,000 Laurel Futurity in September and most recently rallied strongly to be second in the Inaugural Stakes, beaten a neck. Jay’s Way, who rallied to be third in the Inaugural, three-quarters of a length farther back, also returns in this spot.

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Awesome Slate (Last 3 Beyers: 75-75-58)

◗ Gets Lasix for the first time here. “I just opted to put him on it,” Lynch said. “It certainly can’t hurt him.”

Formal Summation (Last 3 Beyers: 69-71-63)

◗ Sold for only $6,200 as a yearling but has earned $104,963 in six starts, all for trainer Kathleen O’Connell. She and jockey Ronnie Allen Jr. have teamed up to go 6 for 23 here in 2015-16, with a highly profitable $4.39 return on investment.

Jay’s Way (Last 3 Beyers: 67-69-68)

◗ Runs for the top local team of jockey Antonio Gallardo and trainer Jamie Ness, who have teamed up to win at a 36 percent clip here since the start of 2015.

Hand of Power (Last 3 Beyers: 76-46-52)

◗ Won his maiden impressively last out, going a mile at Churchill Downs in November, and turned in a bullet workout at Palm Meadows on Jan. 12 for trainer Ian Wilkes.

Morning Fire (Last 3 Beyers: 77-73-86)

◗ Owns the top Beyer Speed Figure in the field and has been the runner-up in three restricted stakes.

Epic Journey (Last 3 Beyers: 79-58-72)

◗ Won his maiden impressively on this track last month in his third start.