03/05/2009 12:00AM

Fierce Wind, Phipps make tough team


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Trainer Will Phipps is enjoying his occasional trips to Tampa Bay Downs this meet. The trainer has sent out four runners at the current stand and the result has been four winners.

Phipps will attempt to keep his perfect record intact on Saturday in the $65,000 Challenger Stakes when he tightens the girth on Fierce Wind, a fast and talented runner who will be making his second start for Phipps since coming back from a long rehabilitation period.

Leading rider Daniel Centeno will return aboard Fierce Wind, who won the 2008 Sam Davis Stakes here and will be going after his fifth win.

The Sam Davis was Fierce Wind's third straight score last spring and he was considered a possibility for the Triple Crown until he came out of the Florida Derby a bit the worse for wear and was taken out of training and sent to Kentucky for some time off.

Brought back to fitness through swimming therapy, Fierce Wind was returned to Florida to train with Phipps. He won first start back on Jan. 16 in an overnight handicap at Tampa, beating Wayzata Bay by 1 1/4 lengths.

Phipps has worked Fierce Wind six times at Payson Park since that race and he looks ready to fire his best shot in the 1 1/16-mile Challenger.

Wayzata Bay, a 12-time winner, was a solid second to Fierce Wind in his first start of 2009, and returns to try him again here. Wayzata Bay won 3 of 9 outings last season, including the Grade 2 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, and has been a model of consistency over the past two seasons for trainer Judi Hicklin.

A liftetime earner of almost $700,000, Wayzata Bay can be expected to be lurking just off the early lead in a field with enough speed to guarantee an honest pace.

Another top contender is Fearless Vision, second in a tough allowance tilt going a mile at Gulfstream Park last time out and a winner of two of his last four starts.

Imawildandcrazyguy finished 10th last time out in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida on the turf at Gulfstream Park. He spent most of 2008 racing with top company and can't be taken lightly in the Challenger.

Paradise Dancer, from the powerful Kirk Ziadie barn, comes into the Challenger off a strong second to Hypocrite in the seven-furlong Super Stakes.