02/14/2013 4:24PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Hollinger has chance to score an upset

Tom Keyser
Doubles Partner comes into the Tampa Bay Stakes off a second-place finish in the Sunshime Millions Turf.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Doubles Partner won the 2011 Tampa Bay Stakes and will most likely be the betting favorite in Saturday’s renewal of the Grade 3, $150,000 turf stakes. But there are several entrants in the 13-horse field who could keep him from a second win in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay.

Doubles Partner, a 6-year-old trained by Todd Pletcher, has made only seven starts in the 23 months since he came on late to win the 2011 Tampa Bay by a neck. His lone win during that time came in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf last March.

In his 2013 debut, Doubles Partner rallied from last over a yielding course to finish second behind the front-running Teaks North in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf as the 1-2 favorite.

Doubles Partner, an earner of close to $600,000, will be shooting for his sixth career turf win Saturday. Chris DeCarlo has been named aboard Doubles Partner, the co-highweight at 124 pounds.

[TAMPA BAY STAKES: Get PPs, watch Saturday's Tampa card live]

Several entrants have the credentials to post an upset in the well-matched field, including Hollinger, a 6-year-old from the Roger Attfield barn. Hollinger earned almost $200,000 last season despite not winning in eight starts, seven against graded company. Hollinger enters Saturday’s race off a ninth-place finish in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale, a race his trainer says was better than it looks on paper.

“He was sitting perfect, just off the pace into the stretch, then had no place to run from the top of the stretch to the wire,” said Attfield. “Had he had any racing room through the lane I’m sure we could have been a part of it at the finish.

“For a bit of better luck here and there, he could have well won two or three races last year. We’re not the type to make excuses for our horses, but he certainly didn’t have the best of luck in several of his races. But then again, that’s turf racing.”

With rain in the area Thursday, and with more forecast for Friday, the chances of the turf being less than firm for the Tampa Bay are pretty good. Attfield says that could work in Hollinger’s favor.

“He’ll run over any type ground but he really likes a little give to the going,” Attfield said, “so if it’s a bit less than firm that’ll be just fine with us.”

Alley Oop Oop will be going for his third straight win locally. The 5-year-old has now won three of five races since being moved to the turf. According to his trainer, Stanley Gold, the horse has strong turf blood and it just took a while for the organization to move him to the grass.

“We tried to get him on the turf a few times at Calder but it never worked out,” Gold said. “He seems to have found himself. He also likes the surroundings at Tampa and does well here.”

Tiz Sardonic Joe and Big Blue Kitten, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Fort Lauderdale, and Roman Tiger, who took last year’s Tampa Bay Stakes, also deserve a long look in Saturday’s feature.