04/04/2005 11:00PM

Florida Cup lures large fields


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Captain Lindsay has finally found a race where he won't run into a 3-year-old trained by Nick Zito. Rich in Spirit takes on male rivals while shooting for her fourth win from her last five starts. Toscani tries to extend his winning streak to six.

Those three horses top a group of 81 runners entered in the third edition of Florida Cup Day at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. The card includes six stakes worth $75,000 apiece. Florida-breds receive first preference, with horses bred in other states only getting in if a race doesn't fill.

Intended to promote horses bred in the Sunshine State, Florida Cup Day is the result of a concerted effort by Tampa Bay Downs, the local division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners Association.

Horsemen have supported the idea with enthusiasm, as evidenced by the full or oversubscribed fields in each of the Cup events.

Captain Lindsay will be among the top three choices in the seven-furlong Ocala Breeders' Sale Sophomore Stakes even though he hasn't won a race this season. Last time out, he ran into Bellamy Road, one of five Zito-trained 3-year-olds who are under consideration for the Triple Crown. Captain Lindsay had to settle for third in the one-mile allowance at Gulfstream Park as Bellamy Road romped home by more than 15 lengths. Prior to that, Captain Lindsay challenged for the lead leaving the second turn of the Sam F. Davis Stakes here but wound up third behind Andromeda's Hero, another Zito-trained 3-year-old.

In the Pasco Stakes, Captain Lindsay's stretch rally wasn't nearly enough to threaten the Zito-trained Electric Light, who won off by almost seven lengths.

Trainer Tom Proctor will hold a strong hand with horses entered in three of the six stakes, including Rich in Spirit, who returns from a 3 1/2-month layoff in the 1 1/8-mile Dayton Andrews Dodge Stakes on the turf. She takes on males in her first start since finishing fourth, beaten just a half-length, in the Tropical Park Oaks on New Year's Day at Calder.

Rich in Spirit came into that race riding a three-race win streak on the turf, and looks to have caught a field that's not particularly strong for this level. Turk's Ransom, fourth in the Tropical Park Derby, is Rich in Spirit's chief challenger.

Toscani tries stakes company for the first time in the six-furlong Hilton Garden Inn Sprint and will take some catching. He hasn't lost in his last five races dating back to last May, while moving from claiming into allowance company. Toscani won his last in handy fashion, covering six furlongs at Gulfstream in 1:09.99.

Gunning For, upset winner of the Grade 3 Lawrence Realization at 1 1/2 miles at Belmont last fall, makes his second start of the year in the Cherokee River Stable Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Local hero Rizzi Girl, who posted the biggest win of her career when she upset a strong field in the Grade 3 Hillsborough earlier this meet, will try to continue her Cinderella story when she heads an overflow field of 14 fillies and mares in the Ogle and Company Turf Distaff Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.