04/07/2011 3:12PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Six stakes carded for Florida Cup Day


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Tampa Bay Downs, the Florida Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’, and the Tampa division of the Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association will present the eighth renewal of the Florida Cup, six $75,000 stakes restricted to Florida-breds, here on Saturday.

Trip for A. J., winner of the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf earlier this season and a fast-closing fourth in the Grade 3 Honey Fox last time out, tops a small but talent-laden field in the mile and a sixteenth Turf Distaff for older fillies and mares.

Trained by Milt Wolfson, Trip for A. J. won six of 12 starts last season, including the Ms. Brookski Stakes and Calder Oaks on the turf. She also finished second in the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap at Calder.

In her 2011 debut, Trip for A. J. finished a close fifth in the Grade  3 Marshua’s River. She came back in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf and rallied from just off the pace to post a half-length victory.

Most recently she was gaining late in the Honey Fox, her first start in six weeks.

Gimmiearide, a recent winner over the local course against high-priced claimers, tops the challengers along with Glotona, who won a second-level option claimer over the main track at Gulfstream Park in March.

Sophomore Turf: Time to step it up

In the 1 1/16-mile Sophomore Turf, trainer Anthony Pecoraro is hopeful I’m Steppin’ It Up can come close to the effort he put forth in his turf debut at Belmont last July. I’m Steppin’ It Up led until late in that six-furlong maiden before falling victim to the late rally of Pluck, who came back later in the year to take the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill.

In his final start as a 2-year-old I’m Steppin’ It Up took on eventual 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont. He raced close to the pace in that mile dirt test before fading to third.

In his only start as a 3-year-old, I’m Steppin’ It Up chased the leader to the stretch of a mile allowance race on the main track at Gulfstream, then faded to finish sixth.

Pecoraro said Wedneday he thinks his colt, who has shown high speed in most of his starts, can be rated if needed.

“He doesn’t have to be in front, although he’s got the speed to get there,” Pecoraro said, “If someone else goes I think he’s capable of sitting not far off the lead.”

Master Dunker, who was elevated to the top spot in the Hallandale Beach Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream two races back, is also a prime threat in the Sophomore Turf along with Extensive, a Tom Proctor runner who has not been worse than third in four career starts.

◗ Sandpiper and Gasparilla Stakes winner Devilish Lady and undefeated White Merlot top the Sophomore Fillies Stakes at seven furlongs on the main track.

◗ Manicero, a winner of four of his first five outings, including the Pasco and Inaugural Stakes over the Tampa strip before finishing a troubled eighth behind Flashpoint in the Hutcheson, tops the Sophomore Sprint.

Jaggermonster, who left the winless ranks in impressive fashon in his career debut here March 26 for leading trainer Jamie Ness, tops the challengers in the seven-furlong sprint.

◗ Peace At Dawn, a winner of two of his last three starts who finished fourth in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream in his only race this season, tops a small but well matched group in the six-furlong Sprint. Others worth noting in the field include On the Vineyard, winner of this same race last season, and Tommy’s Memory, who has won three of four starts at this track.

◗ Compromise, who came off a year layoff to score an eye-catching win here last time out, is one of several older runners with a solid chance in the nine-furlong Turf Classic.

Other contenders include Slews Answer from the Graham Motion barn, who won at first asking at Gulfstream and then lacked racing room when second in his only other start, and Blazen, who comes into Saturday’s race off a first-level allowance win.