03/01/2012 3:36PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Challenger fits Watch Me Go's schedule


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Kathleen O’Connell has a fresh horse in Watch Me Go, winner of last year’s Tampa Bay Derby, who is coming off a solid comeback effort but doesn’t have many options at the moment.

That’s why O’Connell will send out Watch Me Go to make his second start of the year Saturday in the $60,000 Challenger Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth.

Watch Me Go, finished a good second to the red-hot Action Andy in the Feb. 11 Super Stakes, his first start since August of last year. He came back to work six furlongs in 1:16.40.

With few stakes around the country at the moment that fit Watch Me Go’s schedule, O’Connell decided to go in the Challenger.

“He came out of that last race great, and he’s been training so well we didn’t think bringing him back on three weeks’ rest would be pushing it,” O’Connell said.

While O’Connell doesn’t like to talk about long range plans for her horses, she did say the $75,000 Turf Classic for Florida-breds five weeks from Saturday’s race would fit Watch Me Go’s schedule nicely.

“Of course he didn’t show a lot on the turf in the race at Colonial [the Grade 2 Virginia Derby] but we’re not sure if that was footing or just the fact he was off form,” O’Connell said. “Right now we’ll just worry about Saturday’s race.

“He didn’t get the best of trips last out but he still showed some grit to outfinish those other horses for second. Better placement and two turns should put him right in the thick of things Saturday.”

Watch Me Go was not able to duplicate his upset win in the Grade  2 Tampa Bay Derby when tried against top company in the Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginina derbies, and after a subpar effort in the Select at Monmouth in August he was sent to the farm of owner Gilbert Campbell for a long freshening.

Brought back in the seven-furlong Super, Watch Me Go couldn’t handle Action Andy but outgamed a trio of rivals for the place despite being hung wide through much of the race.

The Challenger will pit the top two finishers from last year’s Tampa Bay Derby, as Crimson Knight, who was just a neck behind Watch Me Go in that race at odds of 86-1, moves back to the main track for his crucial third start off a layoff. Crimson Knight came to life last time out against a tough group of optional claiming turf runners, losing a head decision going a mile and a sixteenth.

Wiki has won two of four races since being claimed by Jamie Ness, including an overnight handicap here most recently. He merits consideration in the Challenger along with Seruni, a three-time winner last season who has been training smartly at Payson Park for his first start since November.

Rounding out the field are: I’m Stepping Up, Imperial Czar, and Fort Larned.