04/07/2016 12:46PM

Florida-breds take spotlight during six stakes

Tom Keyser
The filly Family Meeting will challenge males in the Sophomore Turf.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – For Florida-breds, it’s time to shine. Saturday is Florida Cup Day, when Tampa Bay Downs offers six statebred stakes races worth $75,000 apiece, making for one of the most popular days of the meet. Here’s a rundown of the stakes action.

◗ Race 3, the Sophomore Turf, drew a field of seven 3-year-olds set to go 1 1/16 miles on turf. Trainer Chad Brown starts a key player in Life Imitates Art, who rallied to win the Grade 3 Dania Beach Stakes by a head at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 2. He hasn’t run since finishing a close fifth in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 30.

Family Meeting, the winner of the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante on the Del Mar turf in November, will challenge males. A Sky Mesa filly trained by Tom Proctor, Family Meeting most recently was third in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks here, beaten three-quarters of a length.

The field also includes Second Mate, a Mizzen Mast colt trained by Jane Cibelli who earned an 85 Beyer Speed Figure in a maiden win against statebreds last month on the Gulfstream turf. It was his fifth start. Second Mate turned in a bullet five-furlong workout in 59 seconds at Palm Meadows on April 2.

“He’s doing super-good,” Cibelli said. “I couldn’t ask for him to be doing any better. Obviously, he has to beat the filly, Family Meeting, and Chad Brown’s horse, but this seemed like a good chance to get some black type. I’ve always liked this horse and thought there was a little bit more to him than his form had shown. In his last race, I thought, ‘Oh, there you are.’ It’s taken him a few races just to figure it all out.”

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◗ Race 5, the Sprint, features Fast Flying Rumor taking on six other older horses in a six-furlong race on the main track. A 4-year-old West Acre gelding trained by leading conditioner Gerald Bennett, Fast Flying Rumor earned a 108 Beyer, believed to be the highest in track history, in winning the Turf Dash here in January. He subsequently won an optional $50,000 claimer and finished fourth in the Pelican Stakes, both sprints on the main track here.

◗ Race 6, the Tampa Turf Classic, drew a field of nine older horses set to go 1 1/8 miles on turf. Old Time Hockey, a 7-year-old Smarty Jones gelding trained by Proctor, will be trying to win the race for the third straight year, but it won’t be easy. His rivals include Manchurian High, the winner of the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park in January for trainer and owner Lilli Kurtinecz, and the 10-year-old gelding Allie’s Event, who has won three straight races at the meet for breeder, owner, and trainer Lori Smock.

Contention runs deep in this race. The field includes Fundamental, who was beaten just a length when fourth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last fall for Brown; Go Around, a sharp allowance winner for trainer Bill Mott at Gulfstream in February; and Enterprising, who won the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap on turf at Del Mar in 2014 for Proctor.

◗ Race 7, the Sophomore Fillies, features nine 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs on the main track. Valueable Charmer, the runner-up in the Suncoast Stakes here in February for Bennett, is likely to show her customary speed but will face a stern test from April Gaze, a High Cotton filly trained by Eddie Plesa Jr. who has won three of her four starts, including an allowance at Gulfstream on April 1. April Gaze earned a 79 Beyer for that effort, the highest in Saturday’s field, after stalking the pace and winning by half a length.

Plesa said that due to the short eight-day turnaround between races, April Gaze was “75 percent” likely to run Saturday.

“It’d be nice to pick up some black type,” he said. “In all probability, we will run. She came out of her last race excellent. It’s a little closer than I would have liked, eight days, but her last race didn’t seem to take a lot out of her. Her last race told us a lot about her.”

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◗ Race 8, the Sophomore, drew a field of seven 3-year-olds set to go seven furlongs on the main track. Uncle Vinny, the winner by disqualification of the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes last summer, will be making his 2016 debut for trainer Todd Pletcher. He faces four horses who ran in the Spectacular Bid Stakes last month at Gulfstream: Extravagant Kid (second), Bullet Gone Astray (third), Tiger Blood (fifth), and Epic Journey (seventh).

Tiger Blood was an impressive winner of his first two career starts here before faltering in his stakes debut. Epic Journey finished second to Spectacular Bid winner Morning Fire in the Pasco Stakes here in February.

Adding depth to the field is Imperial Hint, who won his only start impressively for trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. in February and retains top local jockey Antonio Gallardo.

◗ Race 9, the Distaff Turf, is a 1 1/16-mile turf race that drew a field of 11 fillies and mares. Evidently and E B Ryder finished first and second in this race last year, separated by a half-length, and return in this spot for trainers Roy Lerman and Marty Wolfson. They face Josdesanimaux, a Mark Casse trainee who will be making her first start since winning the Florida Sire Jewel Princess Stakes at Gulfstream last September.