03/13/2009 11:00PM

Tagg following familiar path

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Trainer Barclay Tagg used a victory in the 2008 Tampa Bay Derby by Big Truck as a springboard to earning a starting berth seven weeks later in the Kentucky Derby. Tagg is hopeful a similar scenario unfolds Saturday, when he sends his latest Derby prospect, Hello Broadway, against 10 other 3-year-olds in the Grade 3, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby. The race highlights Tampa's annual Festival Day program, which includes two other Grade 3 races - the Florida Oaks and Hillsborough.

Big Truck was considered a surprise winner of last year's Tampa Bay Derby, defeating a field that included prohibitive favorite War Pass, who entered the race unbeaten and the leader of the 3-year-old division. But Tagg will not sneak up on anybody with Hello Broadway, whose efforts in New York and at Gulfstream Park could see him go postward as a tepid favorite in a very wide-open field.

Hello Broadway won his career debut at the direct expense of another horse on the Derby trail, Imperial Council, and also was second in the Grade 3 Nashua during his abbreviated juvenile campaign. A son of Broken Vow, Hello Broadway began his journey on the road to Churchill Downs by finishing second behind Capt. Candyman Can after contesting a sharp pace in the Grade 2 Hutcheson over seven furlongs.

"I wanted him where the winner was in the Hutcheson and not on the lead, but things don't always work out the way you want them to," said Tagg, who trains the homebred Hello Broadway for Elizabeth Valando. "He's a classy, classy horse with plenty of potential who still has to put it together in the afternoon. He's done everything I've asked him to do coming in here. Now, all I can do is take him over and turn him loose."

A solid case can be made for a majority of the field in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby.

Warrior's Reward also ships up from Gulfstream Park, where he finished second behind the undefeated Dunkirk going 1 1/8 miles in an entry-level allowance race Feb. 19. Warrior's Reward, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, had won his career debut less than three weeks earlier, rallying to defeat maiden special weight opposition at a mile.

"I'm really looking forward to running him and giving him some stakes experience on Saturday," said trainer Ian Wilkes, who was an assistant to Carl Nafzger when he won the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby with Street Sense. "He's got a lot of talent, and I have a lot of confidence in him. Good horses take you places, and he'll tell us if he belongs on the Derby trail."

Nick Zito will be looking to make amends for War Pass's disappointing effort in last year's Tampa Bay Derby with Nowhere to Hide. The Hall of Fame trainer was to scratch Nowhere to Hide out of Saturday's Louisiana Derby to run in Tampa. Nowhere to Hide is coming off a troubled fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Risen Star.

"Competitive-wise, this is the best spot," said Zito, who also had been considering the Rebel at Oaklawn for Nowhere to Hide. "I was also able to get Alan [Garcia], which helped make my decision to run him here."

Hello Broadway, Warrior's Reward, Nowhere to Hide, Holy Bull runner-up Bear's Rocket, and California invader and supplemental entry Justdon'tcallmejeri will all be making their first start over the quirky Tampa surface, a fact that could play to the advantage of General Quarters, Sumo, and Musket Man, the first three finishers in Tampa's Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes four weeks earlier.

Owner-trainer Thomas McCarthy is the Cinderella story of this year's Tampa Bay Derby, sending out General Quarters against opponents trained by the nationally renowned Tagg, Zito, Wilkes, Todd Pletcher, Doug O'Neill, and Graham Motion. General Quarters, who was claimed out of his career debut for $20,000, earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his 3 1/2-length victory over the improving Sumo in the Sam Davis, and a repeat effort would likely earn McCarthy's one-horse stable an improbable starting spot in this year's Kentucky Derby.