02/11/2016 11:16AM

Solemn Tribute likely to zip to the front in Tampa Bay Stakes

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Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Solemn Tribute wins the Tropical Park Derby on Dec. 19 at Gulfstream Park.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Solemn Tribute showed a lot of heart in his most recent start Dec. 19, battling hard to the wire to score by a head over next-out winner Team Colors in the $79,500 Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Brian Lynch expects another strong effort from the 4-year-old gelding in Saturday’s Grade 3, 150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, which drew a field of 12 older horses set to go 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Solemn Tribute has shown speed in most of his races and likely will try to hustle to the front after breaking from the far-outside post Saturday under Julien Leparoux.

“It’s probably not the worst thing in the world,” Lynch said of the No. 12 post. “Tactically, he should be able to get himself into a good position going into the first turn, but this is his first kick at the can against older horses, so he’d better bring his ‘A’ game. It looks like there’s some speed in the race, but he should be the speed of the race, so hopefully he gets left alone on the lead.”

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KEY CONTENDERS

Solemn Tribute, by Medaglia d’Oro

Last 3 Beyers: 97-96-96

◗ He had a strong second half of 2015, winning three of his last five starts and losing those other two races by a neck and a half-length.

“He’s been a model of consistency,” Lynch said. “The thing I like about him is he’s very gusty. He fights on pretty well when he’s hooked in a duel. He keeps trying, and it seems like he’s getting better.”

War Correspondent, by War Front

Last 3 Beyers: 98-102-102

◗ This lightly raced 6-year-old looms as the horse to beat after finishing a close third in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap last February and winning the Grade 3 Appleton Stakes last March. He returned from a long layoff last month to finish seventh, beaten three lengths, in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale Stakes.

Old Time Hockey, by Smarty Jones

Last 3 Beyers: 92-89-69

◗ He’s 2 for 3 on the Tampa turf course, with a pair of stakes victories over statebreds, and finished second in this race last year, a head behind Grade 1 winner Lochte.

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Sky Captain, by Sky Mesa

Last 3 Beyers: 63-101-101

◗ He turned in a monster effort in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby card last May, crossing the finish line second, a head behind Finnegans Wake, before being disqualified and placed fourth. In his only subsequent start last November, he was eighth in a rich optional claimer at Churchill Downs.

“Sky Captain is a serious, serious horse that has had a lot of issues along the way, mostly his feet,” trainer Mark Casse said. “When he’s good, he can run with most turf horses in North America. Sky Captain is in a tough spot, but we don’t have a lot of options with him.”

Reload, by Hard Spun

Last 3 Beyers: 95-98-93

◗ The winner of the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park in 2014 will be making his first start since November.