03/12/2016 8:14PM

Destin heads one-two finish for Pletcher in Tampa Bay Derby

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Tom Keyser
Destin, ridden by Javier Castellano, sets a track record for 1 1/16 miles in winning the Tampa Bay Derby.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Destin and Outwork were impressive winners for trainer Todd Pletcher at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 13, with Destin prevailing in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes and Outwork scoring in a first-level optional $75,000 claiming race. They both impressed again here Saturday in the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, but this time, only one could win, and after a thrilling duel that lasted the length of the stretch, it was Destin who scored the biggest victory of his young career.

Destin set a track record of 1:42.82 for 1 1/16 miles in taking the Tampa Bay Derby by a length over Outwork, besting the mark set by Bolt Start in the 2010 Challenger Stakes by .01 of a second. Destin, a son of Giant’s Causeway owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stables, has won three of his five starts and earned $390,700.

"I thought both horses ran terrific," Pletcher said. "For Outwork to dig in like he did in only his third start and second start this year was great. And I think Destin now continues to move forward and shows the Sam Davis was legit. It seems like he's getting a little more professional each time and learning how to polish off his races. I'm proud of both of them."

Destin gave Pletcher a record fourth win in this important Kentucky Derby prep and will try to become the third horse to win the roses after racing in the Tampa Bay Derby. Street Sense won the 2007 Kentucky Derby after taking the Tampa Bay Derby, and 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver ran third in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Destin earned 50 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby on May 7 at Churchill Downs and is virtually assured of a spot in the starting gate. Outwork earned 20 points, while third-place finisher Star Hill got 10 and fourth-place finisher Rafting earned five.

Pletcher said Destin and Outwork each probably will run one more time before the Kentucky Derby, possibly in either the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, or the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

“We'll get them back home. All the possibilities are open," said Pletcher.  

Brody’s Cause, the 2-1 favorite in the field of nine 3-year-olds, trailed far back for much of the race and could only finish a nonthreatening seventh. It was his first start since winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity and finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland last October.

Outwork was ridden Saturday by John Velazquez, who had piloted Destin to victory in the Sam F. Davis, while Javier Castellano got the mount on Destin. Outwork was the quickest out of the gate but was tracked closely by Riker in the No. 2 path and Destin in the No. 3 path through a quarter-mile in 24.04 seconds, a half-mile in 47.88, and six furlongs in 1:11.43.

Riker began to drop back on the final turn, leaving Outwork and Destin to slug it out on the front end. The two battled all the way to the wire, with Destin, weaving inward and outward slightly, surging clear late. Destin paid $9.20 as the second choice in the field.

“I think this was a really tough field, and he really impressed me,” said Randy Gullatt, manager of Twin Creeks Racing. “He ran better than I thought he would run. I think he’s learning a lot, so I’m very, very happy. I thought it was amazing. The horse has come a long ways and is ahead of where even we thought he would be. He’s making big jumps.”

“I had a beautiful trip,” Castellano said. “He broke sharp and put me in a good spot, tracking those two horses. The way he sat off of it in third was beautiful. Turning for home, I asked him to go forward, and he responded so well. He finished good, and the way he galloped out was phenomenal.”

After Outwork, it was seven lengths back to the sharp maiden-race winner Star Hill, who was followed by Rafting, Tale of S’avall, Riker, Brody’s Cause, Awesome Banner, and Economic Model.

Outwork hadn’t raced beyond six furlongs in his two prior starts, both wins for owner Mike Repole. Velazquez credited the horse for his gutsy effort in defeat.

“It was a great performance for a horse whose third race was today,” he said. “It was a lot to ask, and he ran a great race. He was trying the best he could.”  

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch