A field of 12 is set to go to post Saturday in the running of the Tampa Bay Derby.
The Kentucky Derby prep race is the 11th on the Tampa Bay Downs card and is set for a 2:23 PDT post.
The 1-1/16-mile race has a total of 85 points available towards earning a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Here is a look at the top runners in the race, as well as one longshot:
Classic Causeway (Brian Lynch trainer, Irad Ortiz jockey) is the 8/5 morning line favorite and certainly does appear the one to beat. In his last start he went off as the favorite in the Sam F. Davis, also at Tampa Bay Downs, came home the winner by over three lengths at the same distance and looked to have plenty left in the tank. Can go wire to wire or just sit off the pace.
Major General (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano, 9/2) is the second choice. There are some questions here as the horse has been off since September 18 when he was the winner by the neck in the Iroquois at Churchill Downs. Two wins in two starts – one off the pace and one setting the pace – has shown the horse appears to be versatile, but it is a small sample size. The works have been good, but not great. Still, he must be given respect, coming from the Pletcher barn.
Shipsational (Edward Baker, Manny Franco, 5/1) was the second-place finisher in the Davis with a big close but wasn’t close to the winner. That was a tactical change from two back when the horse wired the field. Last two works claimed bullets so he looks ready to run and it will be interesting to see how the connections decide on a strategy for the race.
Strike Hard (Matthew Williams, Luis Saez, 8-1) was a badly beaten fourth in the Davis, running wide throughout before passing tiring horses in the stretch. Big improvement with Saez in the irons but I’m going to have see something new from this runner before getting my support. The last of the single digit runners in the field.
Belgrade (Graham Motion, Hector Rafael Diaz, 20-1) is one to look at it if you want a long-shot play. No doubt this is a big step up for the horse, and it is the first time around two turns. He’s 2-for-2, with the last one coming over the track about a month ago. In that optional claimer he went off as the heavy favorite, then bobbled at the start. Undaunted, Diaz kept the horse calm and going three wide he changed home for the win. A tall order, but I will probably toss a few ducks here on a whim.
By Dennis Miller