Derby Preps Primer: Tampa Bay Derby

By Margaret Ransom

Horses at Tampa Bay Downs – Photo Courtesy of

Since it was first contested in 1981, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) has produced just two winners of the Kentucky Derby (G1): Street Sense won this race in 2007 while Super Saver was third in 2010. It has, however, produced a significant number of Derby starters and this year a talented field of 12 sophomores, led by Sam F. Davis (G3) winner Sole Volante, will seek to improve those statistics. Once again, the 1 1/16-mile event is sponsored by Lambholm South, a successful thoroughbred nursery and training center located in Florida. American financier and businessman Jack Dreyfus founded Hobeau Farm in the 1960s and the facility was purchased by longtime horseman Roy S. Lerman in the mid-2000s and added to the previous Lambholm South facility once known as Allen Paulson’s Brookside Farm. Lerman opened Lambholm South in 2000 and it’s been one of the more successful operations in the Ocala, Florida area.

Tapwrit won this race in 2017 before going on to win the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Verrazano won the Tampa Bay Derby before winning the Wood Memorial (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1) in 2013. He also owns the stakes record, clocking the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.36. A year ago, the highly regarded Tacitus won this race en route to a win in the Wood Memorial (G2) and an official third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Most recently, Tacitus was fifth in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup in Saudi Arabia, the worst finish of his 10-race career which earned him $1 million. The Tampa Bay Derby is again a significant stop on the Triple Crown trail and offers Derby qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top-four finishers, virtually guaranteeing the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby gate. Six jockeys – Daniel Centeno, Eibar Coa, Richard Migliore, Pat Day, John Velazquez and Jose Ortiz — each have ridden two winners of this race to tie as leading rider, while trainer Todd Pletcher has saddled five winners, including four of the last seven (Limehouse, 2004; Verrazano, 2013; Carpe Diem, 2015; Destin, 2016; and Tapwrit, 2017). Five winners of the Sam F. Davis, the traditional prep for this race, have gone on to win the Tampa Bay Derby — Phantom Jet (1987),

Speedy Cure (1991), Marco Bay (1993), Thundering Storm (1996) and Burning Roma (2001).

It’s going to be a beautiful day on Saturday with highs in the mid-60s under partly cloudy skies. The Tampa Bay Derby is one of five big stakes races on the card and will be the 11th with a post time of 5:25 p.m. ET. The field, in post-position order with jockey, trainer, and pedigree:

Derby Prep Primer: Tampa Bay Derby

PP Horse Jockey Trainer Breeding
1 Texas Swing J. Castellano T. Pletcherr Curlin—Derby Eve, by Tiznow
2 Spa City D. Centeno K. McLaughlin Street Sense—Sara Louise, by Malibu Moon
3 Relentless Dancer A. Gallardo M. Maker Midshipman—Passion for Words, by Benchmark
4 Chance It P. Lopez S. Joseph, Jr. Currency Swap—Vagabon Diva, by Pleasantly Perfect
5 Market Analysis J. Velazquez T. Pletcher Honor Code—Interest Free, by Exchange Rate
6 Mo Mosa P. Morales M. Maker Uncle Mo—Roughing, by Eskendereya
7 Sole Volante F. Geroux P. Biancone Karakontie—Light Blow, by Kingmambo
8 Letmeno C. Landeros I. Wilkes Twirling Candy—Wicked Mizz, by Mizzen Mast
9 Unrighteous J. Bravo T. Pletcher Violence—Tapit Ten, by Tapit
10 Bye Bye Melvin J. Leparoux H. Motion Uncle Mo—Karlovy Vary, by Dynaformer
11 King Guillermo S. Camacho J. Avila Uncle Mo—Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band
12 Tons of Gold A. Suarez A. Delgado Tonalist—Exit to Heaven, by Holy Bull
Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.