After finishing second in the February 11 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, Tapwrit figured to be trying to turn the tables on McCraken in Saturday’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2). But the absence of the leading Kentucky Derby contender due to an ankle sprain means Tapwrit is now the horse to beat among 10 rivals.

The 1 1/16-mile race awards points on a 50-20-10-5 scale toward a berth in a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Tapwrit broke his maiden making his second start at Gulfstream Park West in early November and followed with a one-length victory in the off-the-turf Pulpit at Gulfstream a month later. A $1.2 million yearling purchase, the gray Tapit colt was forced to alter course when blocked in upper stretch of the Sam Davis and closed belatedly to be a clear second, 1 ½ lengths back of McCraken.

The stalker will attempt to keep moving forward with a returning Irad Ortiz Jr. Pletcher also sends out Sonic Mule, who will his two-turn debut after a third in the February 4 Swale (G2) at Gulfstream.

State of Honor enters on the upswing for Mark Casse, displaying improved speed en route to a third-place effort as the Sam F. Davis pacesetter. The son of To Honor and Serve was adding blinkers and Lasix last time and Julien Leparaoux keeps the assignment. Wild Shot, who struck the front in upper stretch of the Sam F. Davis before weakening fourth, also returns for the Tampa Bay Derby along with No Dozing, who is looking to turn things around after a dull sixth.

New shooters include Beasley, who will try stakes competition after a pair of runner-up efforts versus allowance foes at Gulfstream; multiple stakes-placed Basha; and recent allowance runner-up Tale of Silence.

Rounding out the field are The Money Monster, who was sold and transferred to Bill Mott after improving to 2-for-2 with a narrow tally in January 21 Pasco at Tampa; and winless Zion Valley.

(Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)