03/17/2011 11:55AM

Tampa Bay Downs: Teaks North no lock despite class drop

Barbara D. Livingston
Teaks North upset the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in his last start.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Teaks North roared from off the pace to get up in the final strides of the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap for a stunning upset in his 2011 debut. He drops to Grade 3 competition for Saturday’s $125,000 Tampa Bay Stakes but is far from a shoo-in as he faces an overflow field of diverse turf runners in the 1 1/16-mile stakes.

Teaks North won four of eight starts last year as a 3-year-old, including the $100,000 Restoriation Stakes on the turf at Monmouth and the $70,000 Big Brown at a mile and a sixteenth over the main track at the same oval.

In the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream race, Teaks North languished in sixth through the early going, then closed with a furious rush on the outside to catch Smart Bid in the final strides at 25-1. His trainer, Justin Sallusto, said that while the public was apparenty surprised to see Teaks North run well, he was not.

“I thought he’d run well because he’s a dead honest horse who always gives 100 percent,” Sallusto said, “Of course in turf races you’ve got to get the trip but if he does Saturday we would expect him to run well.”

While Teaks North will be well-backed in the betting, the Tampa Bay Stakes offers a myriad of options starting with Don Cavallo from the Roger Attfield barn.

Don Cavallo has won four of his nine career starts, including a front-running win in a third-level optional claimer at Gulfstream Park last time out.

“I really love this horse,” Attfield said, “he’s done everything we’ve asked of him since we got him last summer and the only bad race he had was at Churchill when the footing was bad and that wasn’t his fault. He’s a versatile horse who will run on or off the pace and I definitely think he’s capable of handling graded company.

“I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him this year and beyond.”

This field isn’t overloaded with speed, and don Cavallo could be the horse to catch.

Doubles Partner, from the Todd Pletcher barn, counted the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill among his pair of wins from four starts last season. He came off a seven-month layoff at Gulfstream Park to finish a fast-closing second, three-quarters of a length behind Don Cavallo, last time out.

Rahystrada won the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap on the turf last season, then came back to be fourth in the Grade I Arlington Million. He will be making his first start since December.

Voodoo Swinge moves into stakes company after winning six of his first seven career starts. He is three for three over the Tampa turf course.

Union Bowman has bested two tough fields, one on turf and the other on dirt, in his two local outings and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Nicanor, Barbaro’s full brother, comes out of the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream, a race where he was steadied several times by jockey Julien Leparoux before fading to fifth in his first start since November.