03/31/2014 11:08AM

Tampa Bay Downs: Florida Cup fields start to take shape


OLDSMAR, Fla. – On Saturday, the Sunshine State’s Thoroughbred breeding industry will be in the spotlight at Tampa Bay Downs as the 12th annual Florida Cup, featuring Florida-bred runners, tops the weekend program.

Six stakes restricted to horses who were bred in Florida are on tap with each offering a $75,000 purse, and while local runners often are considered underdogs to entrants from the high-profile stables from south Florida in local stakes and handicaps, there are some representatives of the “home team” that could well have something to say about the outcome of these races.

◗ Sophomore Sprint – One of the more interesting nominees for the seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds is Yogi Berra. Owned by the daughter of George Steinbrenner, the late owner of the New York Yankees and a strong booster of the Florida breeding industry as owner of Kinsman Stable, Yogi Berra was one of the most impressive first-time starter winners of the current stand, romping home by more than four lengths in a time of 1:17.10 for 6 1/2 furlongs, and the namesake of former Yankee great and master of the malapropism has had three solid works since that win.

◗ Sophomore Fillies Sprint – R Crown Royalty smoked a decent field from the tough rail post in her debut here, and those coming north better be ready if she runs Saturday, while Distinctive Humor and Flirting Clara, both winners here, could have something to say about the outcome of the seven-furlong sprint.

Several of the Sophomore Fillies Sprint nominees are entered in a race Wednesday, so the status of those fillies for Saturday’s race is still uncertain.

◗ Sprint – A trio of locals topped by the horse that may be the claim of the meeting, See I A, may be in the thick of things in this race. With several south Florida nominees racing in Saturday’s $100,000 Sir Shackleford Stakes at Gulfstream, See I A, who posted the fastest six furlongs of the current stand en route to one of his four wins, along with Pelican Stakes winner Palace Barista, Lack of Judgment, an impressive winner in his last race here, and Sneaking Uponyou, who was second in the $100,000 Super Stakes most recently, all have license to take it all.

◗ Sophomore Turf – Ex Pirate, winner of two of his three local starts on the turf, tops the local hopefuls in the Sophomore Turf, while Pirradazis and Saturday’s Light, who was very impressive earlier in the meeting from the Bernell Rhone barn, have the credentials to be factors in this 1 1/16-mile turf tilt.

◗ Distaff Turf – Recent winner Lori’s Store from the classy Glen Hill Farm leads several local nominees, including Cuppy Cake, a two-time winner who has gotten better as the meet has progressed, Babe’s Ruler, who was fourth in the Grade III Florida Oaks last out, Lavallee Twist, who posted one of the fastest mile clockings on the turf in a winning effort earlier in the meet, and Stack the Storm, who looked sharp coming off a year-and-a-half layoff for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard and also won her last.

◗ Turf Classic – Old Time Hockey, beaten by just a head in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf in his first East Coast start and winning in an off-the-turf race here most recently, certainly has the class to contend in the Turf Classic, while late-developing Paltarrevenge and Allie’s Event, who won his fifth career race over the local turf course the last time out, could also have something to say about the outcome of that nine-furlong grass test.

◗ Talk about horses for courses! When Kitty City captured the seventh race Friday, it marked nine wins from nine career starts for Kitty City over the Tampa Bay Downs main track.

Kitty City, trained by Jamie Ness, won her first race at Tampa in December 2011. She has 16 career wins from 48 starts.