Updated on 09/17/2011 1:13PM

Limehouse passes TB Derby test

Tom Cooley
Limehouse wins by a neck over Mustanfar in Sunday's $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby.

OLDSMAR, Fla. - Limehouse proved he could win around two turns and capped a tremendous weekend for trainer Todd Pletcher with a popular neck victory over Mustanfar in Sunday's $250,000 .

Limehouse was a multiple graded stakes winner but had never won beyond seven furlongs coming into the one mile and one sixteenth Tampa Derby. Confidently ridden by Pat Day, Limehouse raced within easy stalking distance of the lead for over five furlongs, dropped back to fifth nearing the five sixteenths pole, swung out into the stretch then outfinished Mustanfar.

Mustanfar, a late addition to the field after a second level allowance race at Gulfstream failed to fill the previous afternoon, was compromised early when pinched back leaving the gate. He surged to contention along the rail down the backstretch then finished strong while remaining near the inside to just miss.

Swingforthefences, the 2-1 second choice in a field of eight 3-year-olds, prompted Very Formal M.D.'s pace, gained command in early stretch then succumbed grudgingly to the top pair in the final furlong.

Limehouse's victory capped a graded stakes double for Pletcher on Sunday. About an hour earlier he won the Grade 3 Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct with Smok'n Frolic. The previous afternoon Pletcher saddled four winners at Gulfstream Park and also sent out Value Plus to finish second in the $1 million Florida Derby.

Limehouse, a son of Grand Slam owned by the Dogwood Stable, paid $3.80 His final time of 1:43.99 was just two-fifths off the track record set by Sunny Prospector in 1989. Day also won the Oaks aboard Ender's Sister to pull off the Tampa Oaks-Derby sweep for the second time. He also turned the trick in 1998.

"I was a little concerned at one point but I know this horse's style and Pat's style as well. He always saves some horse for the end," said Pletcher. "I'll see how he comes back and sit down with Mr. Campbell(Dogwood president Cot Campbell) later this week and talk about our options but the Blue Grass would be the logical choice since he's already won a stakes at Keeneland."

Neal McLaughlin, who saddled Mustanfar in the absence of his brother, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, was elated with his horse's performance.

"I just got off the phone with Kiaran and he couldn't be happier with the way our horse ran," said Neal McLaughlin. "It looks like we got pinched right out of the gate but then he got the run of the rail and he put in a great run."

Trainer Rick Violette said he was disappointed but not discouraged by Swingforthefences third place finish.

"He was wired in the paddock then got really wound up and kind of lost it on the racetrack prior to the race," said Violette. "As a result he was probably more forwardly placed than he wants and I'm not sure that's his best style. But with all of that he was beaten only a length in a very fast time."

A crowd of 8,139 was on hand with the all sources live handle a record $5,353,782 for the 13 race card.