03/12/2010 1:00AM

Odysseus gets first big test in Tampa Derby


Trainer Tom Albertrani knows Odysseus is a good horse. He'll get a better idea of just how good when he sends his once-beaten colt up against Super Saver and five other 3-year-olds in Saturday's $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby.

The Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby will be decided at 1 1/16 miles and highlights an outstanding 12-race Festival Day program at Tampa Bay Downs that also includes the Grade 3 Florida Oaks and Grade 3 Hillsborough Stakes.

An unlucky start led to Odysseus's only loss, a second-place finish in his career debut last fall at Aqueduct. A son of Malibu Moon owned by Satish Sanan's Padua Stables, Odysseus returned to win his maiden going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park in his 3-year-old debut before shipping to Tampa, where he rallied from just off the pace to by 15 lengths going 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 17.

"He didn't run against the toughest group in his last race," Albertrani said. "Now, it's time to step up to the next level."

Albertrani's most anxious moments on Saturday may actually come before the race.

"My only real concern is that he tends to get a little hot in the post parade," Albertrani said. "I'd love to see him relax a little more prior to the race, and hopefully there'll be enough speed in there to set up the same scenario for him as in his last race."

Unfortunately for Albertrani, the main speed in the Tampa Bay Derby appears to be Super Saver, who makes his first start since leading throughout to capture the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs by five lengths on Nov. 28. A homebred son of Maria's Mon owned by WinStar Farm, Super Saver used a similar modus operandi to win his maiden at Belmont Park in his second start. Super Saver sandwiched those two impressive victories around a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Champagne.

Super Saver, who will share high weight of 122 pounds with longshot Gleam of Hope under the allowance conditions of the race, has not missed a beat in the morning since returning to trainer Todd Pletcher's barn at Palm Meadows in January. He capped off a steady string of works with an eye-catching five-furlong drill in 1:00.70 in company with his Grade 1-winning stablemate Munnings on Sunday. Ramon Dominguez will ride.

Pletcher is pleased with Super Saver's conditioning, saying he's "good enough to run a big race without peaking."

Pletcher said he expects Super Saver to be close or on the lead from the outset.

"We'll leave it in Ramon's hands, but we're not going to fight with him to keep him off a slow pace," Pletcher said.

Schoolyard Dreams and Uptowncharlybrown are the hometown favorites, having finished second and third behind Rule in the Grade 3 Sam Davis four weeks earlier.

Schoolyard Dreams took a run at the favored Rule into the stretch of the Sam Davis, and finished three lengths behind him while racing with blinkers for the first time. Trainer Derek Ryan will reach out to jockey Jeremy Rose in hopes of defending the Tampa Bay Derby title he won a year ago with Musket Man. Rose will be the fifth jockey to ride Schoolyard Dreams in five career starts.

Trainer Alan Seewald will put blinkers on Uptowncharlybrown for the first time Saturday. Uptowncharlybrown suffered his first loss in three starts after breaking slowly and racing greenly in the Sam Davis.

Tuvia's Force, a distant second when Super Saver won his maiden in September, comes off a much-needed outing when finishing third in a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 6.

Trainer Anthony Reinstedler's uncoupled pair of Cradle Stakes winner Gleam of Hope and Slammy Boy complete the lineup.