03/05/2012 12:59PM

Tampa Bay Derby to have Pletcher standout

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Tom Keyser
Spring Hill Farm, trained by Todd Pletcher, wins a mile allowance to bring his record to 2 for 2.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – In recent years Tampa Bay Derby has emerged as one of the more popular preps for 3-year-olds with Triple Crown aspirations. Since 2006 at least one Tampa Bay Derby starter has gone on to run in Kentucky Derby, and two of those runners, Street Sense and Super Saver, won the first leg of the Triple Crown. Musket Man finished third in 2009.

The Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby will be run on Saturday, Festival Day, and as many as 10 are expected for the 1 1/16-mile race, according to the track’s stakes coordinator, Gerry Stanislawyzyk.

The Saturday program will also include the Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes at nine furlongs on the turf and the $100,000 Suncoast for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and a 40 yards on the main track.

It’s no shocker that a Todd Pletcher runner will most likely be the betting favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby. Spring Hill Farm is undefeated in two career starts with wins at seven furlongs and a mile at Gulfstream Park, earning Beyer Speed Figures of 79 and 85.

Prospective has finished like a good horse in both his starts this season over the Tampa surface, and didn’t catch any breaks in either race, being hung wide in both the Pasco and Sam Davis stakes. He worked four furlongs in 48.80 seconds last Friday at Palm Meadows. Reveron led into the final furlong of the Sam Davis and has been competitive in all six career starts dating back to September. Battled Hardened won his maiden in a graded stakes, and breezed five furlongs in 1:02 on Saturday at Palm Meadows. Ken McPeek has recent maiden winner Golden Ticket pointed for the race. Golden Ticket worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Other probables include Chief Energy, Fox Rules, Ravelo’s Boy, Take Charge Indy, and Twin. Fox Rules worked five furlongs Saturday in 1:02 here at Tampa, while Ravalo’s Boy was clocked in 1:00.80 Saturday at Calder.

Eight probable for Hillsborough

A rematch between the first two finishers in last year’s Hillsborough, Zagora and Denomination, looks to be on tap as eight female turf runners are pointing for this year’s running.

Denomination won the photo last season by a neck to upset Zagora, but Zagora’s dazzling performance in the Endeavour gives every indication she will take some beating on Saturday. Unbridled Humor, Gold d’ Oro, Hooh Why, Last Full Measure, Roman Robin, and Snow Top Mountain are also said to be pointing for the Hillsborough.

Force de La Nature a Suncoast possibile

Force de La Nature, who had her 3-year-old debut spoiled when she broke in a tangle at Gulfstream last out, may be the horse to beat in the Suncoast. Trained by Eddie Kenneally, Force de La Nature won at first asking at Churchill, then was third in the Grade 3 Schuylerville in her only other start at 2 and has the running style that would suggest two turns would be right up her alley.

Others looking at the Suncoast include Let’s Get Married, who was very professional winning at first asking here, and Melrose Woods, a Broken Vow filly who was shipped east after leaving the maiden ranks at first asking at Santa Anita in January. She is a half-sister to Peter Pan and Belmont Futurity winner Charitable Man. Others counted as Suncoast probables include Mercy Lou, Prothoe, and Speedy War.

◗ Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa Inc. will receive the proceeds from a Festival Day Eve reception to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday. The reception will feature refreshments, cocktails, and entertainment from the Baron Sisters. Tickets are $30 ($35 at the door) or $50 per couple.

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