04/02/2012 11:33AM

Tampa Bay: Florida Cup card offers $450K for statebreds

Leslie Martin
Doubles Partner comes back from a long layoff to win the Canadian Turf at Gulfstream.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Florida-breds will be in the spotlight at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday when horses foaled in the Sunshine State will compete for $450,000 in purse money in the ninth renewal of the Florida Cup.

More than 100 horses have been nominated for the six Florida Cup races, and the names of high-profile trainers abound, topped by Todd Pletcher, who has nine horses nominated for Florida Cup races.

The Turf Classic, at 1 1/16 miles, may wind up drawing one of the strongest fields of the afternoon. Pletcher has nominated Doubles Partner, a late-running veteran who came off a long layoff to take the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park in his last start. Doubles Partner has shown a fondness for the Tampa surface, having won the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf here last March.

This year’s Tampa Bay Stakes winner, Roman Tiger, is also nominated for the Turf Classic, and trainer Graham Motion has nominated Slews Answer.

The Sprint could also turn out to be an interesting race as Sneaking Uponyounuponyou, from the powerhouse Jamie Ness barn, is nominated and would be going after back-to-back wins in the six-furlong race.

The mare It’s Me Mom, who had a five-race win streak snapped here in an overnight handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs last time out, is also nominated for the Sprint. While she would be facing males, she is as fast as they come at six furlongs, and her presence would ensure a blistering pace.

Work on turf course continues

Races scheduled for the turf were moved to the main track on Sunday as efforts continue to repair the surface, which has shown a good bit of fatigue in recent weeks.

The combination of record high temperatures and low rainfall coupled with a busy turf racing schedule has taken its toll on the course, which has generally been considered one of the best in the country.

On Friday, jockeys refused to ride over the course in the final two turf races scheduled on the program, forcing those races to be moved to the main track.

Saturday, the temporary rail was moved to 12 feet and four races were run on the turf, but on Sunday the races were taken off the turf at scratch time.

There are four turf races slated for Wednesday’s program.

◗ Jockey Jorge Vargas won three races last week, including riding both ends of the late daily double on Saturday, giving him 11 winners for the meeting.

◗ Jockey Leandro Goncalves, who has been nothing short of dazzling at this meeting, will ride his final races for this season on Florida Cup Day. Agent Jim McNerney reports that Goncalves, who has 84 wins this meeting, will ride here Wednesday, fly to Oaklawn Park to ride there Friday, then be back at Tampa on Saturday.