01/13/2011 1:34PM

Schoolyard Dreams makes comeback at Tampa

Barbara D. Livingston
Schoolyard Dreams, shown working out last May, will make his first start in more than six months at Tampa Bay Downs on Friday.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Schoolyard Dreams, beaten just a nose when second in the Tampa Bay Derby last year, will make his first start in nearly seven months when favored in the eighth of 10 Friday races at Tampa Bay Downs.

Owned by Anthony Mitola and Eric Fein and trained by Derek Ryan, Schoolyard Dreams went off form in three races after being beaten just a nose by Odysseus last March in the Tampa Bay Derby, the race in which the eventual Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver, finished another half-length back in third.

“He’s basically had the year off since the Pegasus,” said Ryan, referring to a June 19 race at Monmouth Park in which Schoolyard Dreams was last of six.

Schoolyard Dreams, with leading Tampa jockey Daniel Centeno to ride, will start from the outside post in the second-level, $21,400 allowance at seven furlongs.

“I’ve had this race picked out for a while,” said Ryan, a 44-year-old Irishman who has a string of 17 horses here this winter. “He’s good to go.”

The 2010 Tampa Bay Derby produced a wild finish – and wildly divergent paths for the horses involved. Schoolyard Dreams appeared to have the race won in the final yards among a dueling trio, only to be nipped by Odysseus. While Schoolyard Dreams subsequently was dull in the Wood Memorial, Preakness, and Pegasus, Odysseus injured a knee when soundly defeated in his only subsequent start, the Blue Grass Stakes, and was euthanized in August after suffering from colitis, then laminitis. Meanwhile, Super Saver went on to glory by winning the 136th Kentucky Derby.

The 2011 Tampa Bay Derby will be run March 12 and has been tentatively targeted by trainer Todd Pletcher as the race in which Uncle Mo, the strong early favorite for the 137th Derby on May 7, will make his 3-year-old debut.