02/04/2013 1:58PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Mott, Pletcher give master class in stakes

Tom Cooley Photography
Tapicat's next start may come over the Polytrack at Keeneland in the Ashland.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – When they run for the big money, the cream, as they say, usually rises to the top. Such was the case Saturday when one trainer who is already in the Hall of Fame and another who is assured of a spot in that hallowed shrine sent out a pair of rising stars to take the Grade 3, $150,000 Florida Oaks and Grade 3, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes on Festival Preview Day at Tampa Bay Downs.

Bill Mott, the South Dakota native who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, has always let his horses tell him which direction to go with their futures, so when he entered Tapicat in a graded stakes in just her fourth start one could only assume that his runner had shown enough for him to think she had the talent and potential to handle such a jump.

And handle it she did, and then some. Tapicat, who had used good early speed to take her two races leading up to the 1 1/16-mile Florida Oaks, took the track away from her competition at the start of the Oaks and dictated the terms of the race throughout, setting a solid pace, drawing off after a 23.52-second middle quarter, and then showing professionalism through the lane to maintain her advantage.

Jockey Joel Rosario, who was aboard Tapicat, said he was saving his filly for a challenge but none ever came,

“We were going along nicely and she was nice and relaxed,” he said. “I had saved something for the stretch but nobody came to us. She was looking around a bit late, but we won with a little something left.”

While Kitten’s Dumplings saved the place over Wave Theory, who was checked up by jockey Jose Lezcano while advancing into the stretch, it was all Tapicat in the Oaks. Mott indicated after the race that her next start could come over the Polytrack at Keeneland in the Ashland.

No signs of rust from Old Tune

Taking a horse to another hemisphere, getting her to adapt to a completely different training regimen, and having her ready for a top effort after 10 months is no easy task, but accomplishing it is nothing new to Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher brought Brazilian star Old Tune in for the Endeavour, and although the mare hadn’t run since last April, she was fresh, fit, and preferred against her field of 11 competitors. Using good early speed, Old Tune vied for the lead inside early then shook clear into the stretch and maintained a safe margin through the stretch under Rosario for an 11 3/4-length win.

“She might be something special,” Rosario said after the race. “Even in the stretch she was pulling, wanting to go on.”

Both Old Tune and Tapicat were initially credited with record times for their performances, but a track review of the race times left only Tapicat with that distinction.

Because of an error by Trakus, the tracking and timing company used by the track, Tampa Bay announced Sunday that the fractional and final times for both stakes had been revised.

Instead of setting a course record for 1 1/16 miles in the Endeavour, as was announced after the race, Old Tune officially ran the distance in 1:41.48, 1.22 seconds off My Lordship’s 2006 stakes record and almost two seconds slower than Legs Galore’s track record 1:39.65, set in the 1999 Tampa Bay Breeders’ Cup.

Tapicat’s revised time of 1:41.89 in the Florida Oaks remains a stakes record, however, eclipsing the 1:43.30 mark of 2012 winner Dixie Strike.

◗ One of the disappointments of the Endeavour was Dealbata, who was buried down inside in traffic much of the way and never got untracked, finishing ninth in her first start since September. Look for an improved effort for this Irish-bred filly next time out.

◗ Fernando DeLa Cruz has very quietly been having a good meeting with 22 wins through Sunday. He had 23 for the entire meeting last season. He captured 167 races last year.