Having already successfully raided the three-year-old stakes pots at Tampa Bay Downs this season when Rule (Roman Ruler) took the Sam F. Davis S. (G3) in February, trainer Todd Pletcher will attempt to do it one more time on Saturday in the $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G3). This time, Pletcher's representative is SUPER SAVER (Maria's Mon), who will be making his first start since an authoritative five-length score in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) at Churchill Downs in November. The 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby, the highlight of the meet, anchors a solid 12-race program which also features three other stakes, two of them graded.
Like his stablemate Rule, Super Saver can usually be found on the front end in his races. That's where he was early on in the Champagne S. (G1), his stakes debut, but the quick pace took its toll and the WinStar homebred retreated to fourth, two lengths behind Homeboykris (Roman Ruler). In the Kentucky Jockey Club, his two-turn debut, Super Saver set a more relaxed pace than he had in the Champagne. When challenged turning for home, jockey Calvin Borel let out a notch and Super Saver exploded to win in a runaway.
Borel, who is occupied with Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro) at Fair Grounds on Saturday, will be replaced on Super Saver in the Tampa Bay Derby by Ramon Dominguez, who guided the bay to his seven-length maiden win at Belmont in September.
Another Palm Meadows-based runner, ODYSSEUS (Malibu Moon), figures to attract plenty of support in his stakes debut. Runner-up in his Aqueduct debut on Halloween, the Tom Albertrani pupil graduated at Gulfstream over seven furlongs in January then returned last month to take an entry-level allowance by 15 lengths over this course and distance. He should be well-positioned throughout under Rajiv Maragh, who has guided him in all three starts.
The second- and third-place finishers from the Sam Davis, SCHOOLYARD DREAMS (Stephen Got Even) and UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN (Limehouse), both merit respect. Schoolyard Dreams, who donned blinkers for the Davis, was a clear second at 9-1 in the Davis and has been working lights out for this return engagement. Uptowncharlybrown, who entered the Davis undefeated after two dominant scores including the Pasco S., never threatened for the win in his two-turn debut but did turn in a solid rally in the final furlong to claim the show. He will add blinkers for the Tampa Bay Derby and should improve in his second route appearance.
GLEAM OF HOPE (City Zip), who notched the off-the-turf Cradle S. on Labor Day, has run well everywhere except Churchill Downs and is a threat for a minor placing. TUVIA'S FORCE (Mineshaft), trained by Nick Zito, was second in Super Saver's maiden win and remains eligible for a first-level allowance after running third in his seasonal bow. SLAMMY BOY (Grand Slam), a turf runner, appears too slow on paper to pull off the upset.