03/12/2005 12:00AM

Tampa: Tap Day overcomes obstacles

Tom Cooley
Tap Day, ridden by Jose Velez Jr., draws away from Above the Wind in the Budweiser Challenger at Tampa Bay.

Tap Day overcame a bad start and a wide trip for much of the $65,000 Budweiser Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs to score a one-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for older runners.

Ridden by Jose Velez Jr., Tap Day ($6.20) hopped at the start but quickly recovered to stalk the leaders while placed well out from the inner rail. Velez sent Tap Day up along the outside leaving the second turn and set sail at Above the Wind, who had drawn clear after six furlongs in 1:12.44. Above the Wind, the 2-1 favorite, still held a daylight lead into the final furlong but Tap Day, under brisk handling, was able to wear down the leader in the final 70 yards.

Attack the Books was slowly gaining late outside and finished a length behind runner-up Above the Wind.

Tap Day, trained by Mark Hennig, covered the distance over a fast track in 1:44.58. He has won 8 of 16 career starts and $250,187.