03/12/2004 12:00AM

Rematch in a different town


Twenty four hours after sending out the two top choices in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, trainers Rick Violette and Todd Pletcher will come 200 miles north to do it all over again in Sunday's $250,000 .

Violette brings the lightly raced but promising Swingforthefences to Tampa, while Pletcher counters with his already stakes-proven Limehouse. They will top a field of eight 3-year-olds that also includes Mustanfar, Kaufy Mate, Zakocity, Very Formal M.D., Tap Dancer, and Misguided Left.

The Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby highlights a 13-race program at Tampa Bay Downs that also includes the Grade 3 Hillsborough Handicap and the Tampa Oaks.

First post is 12:20 Eastern, with the Tampa Bay Derby slated to go at 5:18 p.m.

In the Florida Derby, Violette had the horse to beat in Read the Footnotes and Pletcher the second choice in Value Plus. But those roles figure to be reversed in Tampa, with Limehouse expected to be the betting favorite.

Limehouse has already won a pair of graded stakes, including Gulfstream Park's seven-furlong Hutcheson, a Grade 2, when he powered by stablemate Deputy Storm en route to a 2 1/4-length victory. It was his first start since a third-place finish four months earlier in Keeenland's Lane's End Breeders' Futurity. But Limehouse has yet to win beyond seven furlongs, and Pletcher is hoping to find out just what Limehouse's distance limitations may be as he progresses down the Kentucky Derby trail.

"One mile and one-sixteenth is really not a concern," said Pletcher. "He ran a bang-up race in the Lane's End. Beyond that I'm not sure. My main concern Sunday is whether he'll handle the surface."

Pat Day replaces John Velazquez aboard Limehouse. Velazquez is committed to ride Roar Emotion in Gulfstream Park's Rampart the same afternoon.

Swingforthefences is currently second on trainer Rick Violette's Kentucky Derby depth chart behind Read the Footnotes, but he is more than an adequate backup and the one of the two favorites in the Tampa Bay Derby. That is especially true considering the way he exploded through the stretch to a 5 1/4-length first-level allowance victory at Gulfstream on Feb. 14.

"It looks like Todd's colt is the one to fear. Fortunately there is a fair amount of speed in this field, so it's unlikely anybody is going to get loose on the lead," said Violette. "My only worry is that we don't fall too far off the pace. I don't want to have to rely on him making the same kind of devastating move he made last time to win this race."

Edgar Prado replaces Jerry Bailey, who rides Sightseek in the Rampart.

Mustanfar, a last-minute addition to the field after a second-level allowance race failed to fill at Gulfstream on Saturday, returns to the main track after finishing a nonthreatening sixth making his turf debut in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes. Trained by the red-hot Kiaran McLaughlin, Mustanfar defeated Swingforthefences earlier this winter, although Swingforthefences had to take up sharply near the eighth pole that day.

Kaufy Mate became a Tampa favorite after rallying to a 1 3/4-length victory over the-odds on Cliff's Edge as a 34-1 outsider in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 21.