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Saratoga Opening Day
Owner Satish Sanan of Padua Stables leads Odysseus and Rajiv Maragh to the winner's circle after the Gotham
The highlight of the Tampa Bay Downs racing season is the $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G3), the major local prep for the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown series. A field of 7 three-year-olds went to post on Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 11,025, with Super Saver sent off as the 3-2 favorite in this 1 1/16 mile main track feature. Super Saver was unraced since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in November. In to challenge him included 2-1 second choice Odysseus, winner of an allowance by 15 lengths at Tampa last out and making his stakes debut, and 3-1 third choice Uptowncharlybrown, third in the Sam F. Davis, the major local prep for this event.
The fight down the stretch
Super Saver was sent to the front by jockey Ramon Dominguez and he set fractions of 23.52 and 47.02 while as many as 2 lengths in front of Odysseus who stalked him in second. On the far turn, 5-1 fourth choice Schoolyard Dreams, who sat fourth early, moved up to challenge Super Saver to take over the lead, getting 3/4 in 1:11.74. Schoolyard Dreams and Super Saver dueled to mid-stretch, but Odysseus came through on the inside to pass. At the finish, Odysseus nosed out Schoolyard Dreams for the win in 1:44.31, and it was just 1/2 a length back to favorite Super Saver third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 7 Odysseus Maragh 6.00 3.40 2.40 5 Schoolyard Dreams Rose 5.00 2.80 6 Super Saver Dominguez 2.40 Winning Time: 1:44.31 $2 Exacta 7-5 33.80 $2 Trifecta 7-5-6 77.40 $1 Superfecta 7-5-6-3 202.00
Left: Odysseus in the winner's circle. Sanan said, "Rajiv just told me that he thought he was beaten. He said he would have taken a dead heat! But the guys next to us, who are local, they told me right away, 'You won.' They see it every single day, and sometimes you can't really tell, especially because he was in between the two horses. It was very hard to see, but his nose was just right there. You know, this is his fourth race. (Rajiv) thought he got a little intimidated when (Schoolyard Dreams) was on his outside. We're going to leave it to Tommy (Albertrani), we might look at the Wood Memorial, but now we don't have to win that. If he decides that we go straight to the Derby, well, we're going to leave it in this guy's hands."
Right: Odysseus in the post parade. His jockey Rajiv Maragh said, "Getting past the wire I said to Jeremy (Rose, aboard Schoolyard Dreams) 'I think you won it Jeremy'. He thought so too. So it was a surprise when they put our number up. We got exactly the position I wanted early and like last time he relaxed for me. I wanted to wait with him and not hook anybody too soon so when we got to the far turn I asked him to move up and I thought we were in charge but suddenly a horse swept by us on the outside. I was surprised and so was the horse and he hesitated and were suddenly behind horses we might have been in front. But he showed his class and got running again. I wasn't sure we were going find a path and then it opened up just a few yards from the finish and like I said I didn't think we had won. He is just getting better and better!"
Left: Second place finisher Schoolyard Dreams in the post parade. The 5-1 fourth choice raced in fourth 4 lengths off the pace early under new jockey Jeremy Rose, then took a short lead entering the stretch but was outfinished, losing in the photo. The Derek Ryan trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third in 5 starts, earning $141,560 for owners Eric Fein and Anthony Mitola.
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Super SaverThe 3-2 favorite set the early pace under jockey Ramon Dominguez, was headed after 3/4 mile and fought through the stretch to finish third beaten 1/2 a length. The Todd Pletcher trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 1 second, and 1 third in 5 starts, earnings $201,232 for owner-breeder WinStar Farm.
The distaff counterpart to the Tampa Bay Derby is the $175,000 Florida Oaks (G3) for 3-year-old fillies also going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. 20-1 Mallory Square set the early lead through slow fractions of 50.03 and 1:14.48, but 9-5 favorite Diva Delite, 5th down the backstretch, looped 4 wide into the stretch to pass the pacesetter at the 1/8 pole, drawing away to win by 2 lengths over 22-1 C C's Pal in 1:46.10. It was another 1/2 length back to Mallory Square third.
Results Chart from DRF.
Winning jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. said, "This is such a wonderful filly to ride. I knew she was going to be good again today; she was just so perky in the post parade and then she just waited in gate without turning a hair. She broke nicely like she always has and I took a spot behind the lead group. But the pace slowed and I was afraid of up running up on horses so took her out and asked her to wait. She wanted to go after them as we got past the half mile pole. But when I asked her to go she just went past everybody in about five strides. All I was worried about in the stretch was that something might come up inside of us but there was nothing there."
Trainer David Vivian added that he will not enter Diva Delite in the Kentucky Oaks. He said, "She's run some hard races, and I've shipped her back and forth with two weeks apart and three weeks apart; she's done a lot. She looks excellent, though, so I'm just going to play it by ear. See how she is in three or four weeks and we'll see what she'll do. I think she's better than I think she is! She just keeps improving and improving and she goes long. And there are not too many three-year-old fillies that want to go long."
Kicking off the stakes action on Tampa Bay Derby Day was the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares going about 1 1/8 miles on the turf. 20-1 longest shot In My Glory set the pace through fractions of 24.96, 50.33, and 1:14.70 over the good turf course, while 9-5 favorite Phola sat back in last 8 lengths off. Entering the stretch, Phola came out 5 wide to circle the field, passing everybody at the 1/8 pole through 1 mile in 1:40.36, and drawing clear to win by 4 1/4 lengths over 2-1 second choice Cure for Sale in 1:52.51. It was another 2 lengths back to 3-1 third choice Liberally third.
Results Chart from DRF.
Winning jockey Ramon Dominguez said, "That was a good win for me; I got beat here a couple of weeks back on a horse (Gio Ponti) I thought would win. This filly settled nicely for me and I was pretty sure the speed would come back to us. But we were farther back than I had expected. Then when I asked for run she just flew up at the lead group and really impressed me with her run though the stretch. They told me to let her set her own pace and that she would have run at the end and she sure did."
Co-owner George Saufley said, "I knew she was going to break out sometime, but I just didn't know when. She didn't wait too long. It was really exciting; a beautiful race. She's done pretty well on the soft turf, and the Pletchers have done a good job with her." Co-owner J.J. Pletcher added, "We're very happy to get a stakes win under her belt. Now we're going to move her up. I don't know what her next start will be; I'll have to talk to Todd (Pletcher). We're going to Keeneland with some horses, and then to Churchill. If he takes her over there, hopefully he'll run her in a stake."
Photos courtesy of Amber Chalfin of Downthestretchphotos.com.
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