02/18/2017 6:07PM

Tiger Blood gets first stakes win in Pelican Stakes

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Tiger Blood, ridden by Pablo Morales, wins the Pelican Stakes by one length Saturday.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Tiger Blood got his first stakes victory Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, tracking the pace of Springmeier and wearing down that rival in the final sixteenth to win the $96,800 Pelican Stakes by one length.

With Pablo Morales aboard, Tiger Blood tracked Springmeier in second place through a quarter-mile in 22.43 seconds and a half-mile in 45 flat before floating wide around the turn and engaging in a stretch battle with Springmeier. Tiger Blood ($8.60) pulled clear late and finished the six-furlong race in 1:09.42 on a fast track.

Tiger Blood improved to 4 for 6 on Tampa’s main track. The 4-year-old Cowtown Cat colt is trained by Darien Rodriguez for Miguel Barraza. He has won four of his nine starts for $115,302.

“I rode him first time out here, and from Day 1, we knew he was something special,” Morales said. “He was ready to go today. He was sharp. I kind of edged outside a little bit to make sure nobody came outside of me, and he was super happy. He was just dragging me along. I knew we were in pretty good shape all the way around there.”

In his prior stakes starts, Tiger Blood had finished fifth in the Spectacular Bid at Gulfstream Park last March and fourth in the Florida Cup Sophomore Stakes here last April. Rodriguez said the $100,000 Florida Cup Sprint for Florida-breds ages 4 and up here April 2 is an option for Tiger Blood.

“I told him to get out of there and put him on the outside if he could because last time he got in between horses and was a little shy,” Rodriguez said. “He did good today.”

Springmeier finished 2 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place Sonoma Crush in the field of eight older horses, with El Grande Rojo, Gorgeous Bird, Schivarelli, Futile, and Epic Journey rounding out the order of finish.

Futile was favored in the Pelican after winning the allowance prep for this race Jan. 15, beating Tiger Blood by a length. Futile, making his stakes debut Saturday, raced five wide on the backstretch and was advancing three wide around the turn when Tiger Blood fanned wide into his path, and he faded from contention in the stretch.

“I don’t think he was traveling the same way he was the last time he ran,” trainer Arnaud Delacour said. “He just didn’t fire today. He had a wide trip the last time too, so I can’t really make any excuse.”