03/31/2017 11:30AM

Tiger Blood brings improving figures into Florida Cup Sprint

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Tiger Blood earned an 89 Beyer for his win in the Pelican Stakes.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Tiger Blood has improved his Beyer Speed Figures in each of his three races at the Tampa Bay Downs meet, and another forward move Sunday would make him a handful in the Sprint, one of six $100,000 stakes for Florida-breds on the annual Florida Cup program.

The six-furlong Sprint (race 2) drew a field of only six older horses. It’s one of three dirt-sprint stakes on the card, along with the Sophomore, for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, and the Sophomore Fillies, for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.

Tiger Blood has been a terror at Tampa Bay Downs, with four wins and a second-place finish in six starts here. Trained by Darien Rodriguez for MK Stables LLC, Tiger Blood earned his first stakes victory Feb. 18, scoring by one length against open company in the $96,800 Pelican. Tiger Blood finished that six-furlong race in a snappy 1:09.42 and earned an 89 Beyer that is tied for the highest last-race mark in this field.

Tiger Blood turned in a sharp workout last Sunday in 47.80 seconds, the second-fastest of 39 half-mile works here that day.

“He’s training really forward for this race,” Rodriguez said. “It seems like his numbers are improving every race, and I expect him to run a big race. He’s training lights-out every week, so hopefully he’ll show up Sunday.”

The field also includes Early Entry and Delta Bluesman, who were separated by half a length as the top two finishers in the $100,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint for statebreds at Gulfstream Park in January. Early Entry earned a 98 Beyer in that race. In February, he was fourth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Grade 2 stakes winner Unified, in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint.

Though the Sunshine Millions Sprint victory came at six furlongs, trainer Kathleen O’Connell said Early Entry prefers races at 6 1/2 or seven furlongs, but she’s expecting a solid effort from the 6-year-old horse after he breaks from post 2 under Ronnie Allen Jr.

“He trains at Tampa, and I just thought that walking out of his stall might be better even though it isn’t his best distance,” O’Connell said. “I was just looking for an easy race to build up his confidence. I look for a good effort. I would have been happier with a better post.”

Delta Bluesman, the winner of the Grade 2 Smile Sprint at Gulfstream last summer for trainer Jorge Navarro, finished sixth in the Gulfstream Park Sprint and will be trying to snap a four-racing losing streak.

◗ In the Sophomore (race 5), trainer Troy Wismer and owner Breeze Easy LLC have the horse to beat in Classic Cotton, whose 83 Beyer from his second start tops this field. Classic Cotton earned that mark March 18 at Gulfstream Park, holding on for a neck victory over Souper Wish in a $46,000 maiden special weight sprint. Trainer Mark Casse said Friday that Souper Wish is among his top 3-year-olds.

Casse has a contender in Salute With Honor, who most recently finished third, beaten seven lengths by One Liner, in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream in January. One Liner went on to win the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn in February. After the Gulfstream race, Salute With Honor was transferred to Casse from trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.

“He’s training well,” Casse said. “We’re still getting to know him, but I would expect him to run well.”

Also in the seven-horse field are The Cookie Man, trained by Teresa Connelly, Reason to Soar (George Weaver), and Mo Cash (Ron Spatz).

The Cookie Man put together a three-race winning streak at this meet before finishing a close second to Egyptian Hero, a Todd Pletcher trainee who is targeting the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 15. Reason to Soar blasted statebred maidens by 6 1/4 lengths in his only start in February at Gulfstream and retains jockey Jose Ortiz. Mo Cash is perfect in two starts, including a 3 3/4-length win in the $60,000 American Fabius Stakes at Gulfstream in February.

◗ R Angel Katelyn will be looking for her fourth stakes victory and her third of the meet when she meets eight others in the Sophomore Fillies (race 9). Trained by leading local conditioner Gerald Bennett, she won the $89,000 Sandpiper and the $86,000 Gasparilla at this meet before finishing third in the $55,000 Suncoast, her first start around two turns. The cutback to seven furlongs should benefit the front-running filly.

The field also includes Sadie Be Good, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, and Yes I’ll Go, trained by Armando De la cerda. Sadie Be Good beat statebred maidens by six lengths at Gulfstream in January before finishing fourth last out in a first-level allowance. Yes I’ll Go won the $50,000 fillies’ division of the OBS Sprint on the synthetic surface at the Ocala Training Center in January before finishing seventh in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream in February.