03/03/2014 1:43PM

Tampa Bay Derby: Casse, Pletcher have top contenders

Tom Keyser
Vinceremos, who won the Sam F. Davis Stakes, likely will be favored in the Tampa Bay Derby.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Mark Casse and Todd Pletcher’s training operations are different in many ways. Casse bases his stable at Woodbine near Toronto from the time he leaves Florida each winter until late fall, while Pletcher is based in New York at Belmont Park and Saratoga once he leaves Florida each spring.

Most of the horses in Casse’s stable are owned by John Oxley, while Pletcher has a number of different owners and ownership groups for his large string of runners.

But one thing the two trainers have in common is a fondness for using stakes at Tampa Bay Downs to test their developing 3-year-olds.

The stakes for sophomores in the weeks preceding the Kentucky Derby are like spring training or boot camp and separate the men from the boys. And on Saturday, Pletcher and Casse are expected to start runners at crucial points in their respective careers in the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby.

As of Monday, at least eight 3-year-olds were probable for the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby, and it’s likely that Vinceremos, who won the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes for Pletcher at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 1, will be favored Saturday.

The colt will be making just his fourth start in the Tampa Bay Derby, and in his nose victory in the Sam F. Davis, he showed both talent and inexperience, dropping back inside on the second turn, then spurting to a daylight lead in midstretch before coasting and waiting on horses late to make the finish closer than it should have been.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Vinceremos looks like a gangling young athlete who is still learning how to focus and put it all together. It will be interesting to see if he is more dialed in when they turn for home Saturday.

The winner of the Tampa Bay Derby earns 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby under a system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 3 classic should more than 20 horses enter the race. The second-place finisher gets 20 qualifying points, the third-place finisher gets 10, and the fourth-place runner five.

Casse is pointing two colts to the Tampa Bay Derby: Matador, who was fourth, beaten a length, in the Sam F. Davis, and Conquest Titan. Conquest Titan showed a ton of speed early in his career and was in front early in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November before finishing last.

But in his two most recent starts, Conquest Titan has displayed a running style more like his father, Birdstone, coming from last to win an allowance at Churchill Downs in his final start as a 2-year-old, then looping the field to finish second in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January in his 3-year-old debut.

Matador figures to be fitter for his second start since November, and this could be the acid test for the Oxley runner.

The race was to feature Bond Holder, who won his maiden in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita in September and finished fourth in the BC Juvenile. But that horse has a foot injury and "is still recovering from the effects of his FedEx flight," according to a Facebook post by trainer Doug O'Neill. The trainer said Bond Holder was likely to resume training at the end of the week and have a breeze the following week before O'Neill determines where he'll start start.

Other probable starters include Asserting Bear, Coltimus Prime, Hy Kodiak Warrior, and Surfing U S A.

Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Florida Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on turf has 10 3-year-old fillies counted as probable starters, including Interrupted from the famed Pin Oak Stud operation. That filly is slated to make her 3-year-old and stakes debuts after winning her first two outings last fall at Laurel Park.

Babe’s Ruler, who finished second over the synthetic track at the Ocala Training Center in the $100,000 OBS Championship in January after a good win in December over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course, also is expected in the lineup. Miss Besilu, a winner of two of her last three starts for Hall of Famer Bill Mott and second in the Ginger Brew Stakes after starting from the tough No. 10 post at Gulfstream in January, also is scheduled to go in the Oaks.

Parranda will be shooting for her fifth win from her last six starts in the Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf. The field is expected to include Riposte, who was second to Parranda in the Grade 3 Suwannee River Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 8 in her U.S. debut for Juddmonte Farms. At least eight fillies and mares are expected for the Hillsborough.

bassryba More than 1 year ago
Has a Tampa Bay Derby winner ever won the Kentucky Derby?
Mark More than 1 year ago
One last time for all who think ct will be last in this field early and off the screen you have no idea wtf you are talking about. Thanks . Good night.
Bryan Horn More than 1 year ago
Horses like Conquest Titan get me, and I think a lot of people excited because there's nothing like seeing a tightly would freight train of a horse come from far back in a pack to either win, or crash the party for a (big-priced) exact/tri or super in a big race. And since we're all following these races in anticipation of the Derby, I am reminded of horse like Orb who won, and Golden Soul who snagged 2nd last year; Dullahan who snagged 3rd in '12; AK who won in '11; Ice Box in '10 who stole 2nd; and of course Mine That Bird won in '09. There is at least 1 deep closer in the top 3 every year in the Derby; good luck this weekend. If the Titan is for real, he has to win or finish keenly for 2nd or 3rd against these 3rd stringers.
Nick Kenyon More than 1 year ago
exacta Vinceremos Conquest Titan
m More than 1 year ago
After a Harpoon NO SHOW in the Gotham I wonder how good the Sam F was....I'm not liking Vinceremos after seeing Gotham...
m More than 1 year ago
....Not to mention the time in the Sam F was dog speed.
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
All the times@ Tampa that day on dirt were well below par.
Jason Kassa More than 1 year ago
If Conquest Titan gets a fair trip, he needs to beat this field in order to advance as a serious Derby consideration.
Jim More than 1 year ago
Harpoon ran so well this past weekend. Really good sign for that Sam Davis field. Very exciting!
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
You are being sarcastic I hope...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I stated in my Gotham Analysis, Harpoon had a wide trip for his fifth place finish, but will have to improve significantly in his next start to have any chance at all against Graded stakes types. . .Steve Davidowitz.
Craig More than 1 year ago
Casse doesn't travel well.Lot of well bred horses that get overmatched in the States.
Mark More than 1 year ago
CT already beat gp stakes winner and foy runner up gen a rod in the states at Churchill and ran 2nd in HB in the states .
Craig More than 1 year ago
I love Conquest Titans pedigree and the fact he has a win over Churchill.I wil be using CT on all my exotic tickets if he makes it to KY,in spite of his conditioner.
philcoforde More than 1 year ago
Casse has had success at TB in the past...one of his better U.S. venues.
martymar . More than 1 year ago
there are 4 woodbine base horses in the race, I like conquest titan but the one to look out for is Coltimus Prime
Jaime Dubyna More than 1 year ago
I agree about Coltimus Prime. He is one to watch.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Smart move putting Conquest Titan here has no shot at Gulf with the bias. Hopefully he gets a good clip in front of em. This horse may have a shot to get in top 4 in Derby.
dameian ramsay More than 1 year ago
I think I will b betting him. He should b 5/1 or higher
tim More than 1 year ago
I think Conquest Titan goes off around 2/1 as the post time favorite.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Ct will be much closer in here . Has plenty of speed. Can be placed anywhere.
Jack H More than 1 year ago
that horse has no shot a Tampa Bay. It has been speed favoring since the day they opened the doors. Save your money. Hope he gets enough points to make it into the derby. Pray from rain, and then back the truck up and unleash for a big score.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Jack what odds you give me on Saturday? Id love to take your money.
Mark More than 1 year ago
And let's have your winner please . Thanks
Jack H More than 1 year ago
I never have dogs is a fight for a prep race for the derby. 1. you never know how ratcheted up they are at this point 2. everyone is trying with min effort to get the points needed to get into the derby with enough left in the tank to give a peak effort at churchill. 3. Prep races have more sharp or day to day gambling money. I want to go after the money that only places the races one a year. Mark my comment was not intended to question your pick and I will be the first to offer congrats if this horse wins this race. I love this horse !! the time just needs to be right for me.
sgvoak . More than 1 year ago
I think this horse titan is growing up. he closes nice and showing class. if he makes the derby he needs the special hands of robby alberado. not the beat your wife hands hes famous for losing derby winning mounts with but the way he always comes in late with a runner in the big ones.
William Eisele More than 1 year ago
been waiting for MATADOR ,he ran huge in the sam davis, but needed the race ,i expect him to move forward