Prospective made his move to the lead on the far turn, was headed in midstretch by a surging Golden Ticket, then came back again to prevail in Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. Winner of the Grade 3 Grey Stakes at two and second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes in his previous start, the Mark Casse-trained colt likely guaranteed himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby field by increasing his graded earnings to $365,452.
A son of Malibu Moon, Prospective was guided by regular rider Luis Contreras and completed 1 1/16 miles in a very respectable 1:43.35, missing the track record (1:42.83) by only a couple of ticks.
Cajun Charlie shot out of the gate and winged his way on a daylight lead through early fractions of :22 3/5 and :47 on the fast track. Prospective was content to save ground from his rail post, racing more than seven lengths back in sixth after the opening quarter-mile, and advanced to fourth passing the half-mile mark. The dark bay colt launched his move entering the far turn, rallying quickly to the front in a commanding fashion, and turned for home on a clear lead.
It suddenly got very interesting as Golden Ticket weaved his way through traffic leaving the far turn and rapidly drove into contention along the fence in upper stretch. Prospective reached the three-quarters mark with a diminishing half-length lead in 1:11 3/5 and Golden Ticket briefly struck the front between calls in midstretch, but Prospective was able to counter-punch on the outside, rallying back to the lead. He edged clear in the final yards to win by nearly a length.
"He (Prospective) moved a little earlier than I expected, but I just tried to keep him quiet and save as much horse as I could for the stretch," Contreras said. "I kept hitting him with the left hand and he just kept going. He never quit."
"I rode him pretty hard," Casse said jokingly, his voice hoarse from yelling. "Was I worried? Well, I wish he could have won by five. But was I worried? You know, he's a fighter, and I didn't really think anybody would beat him once he made the lead."
Owned by John C. Oxley, Prospective added blinkers on Saturday and improved his overall ledger to 7-4-2-0, $441,317. He was off as the 3-1 third choice among 11 rivals. Golden Ticket, the 12-1 sixth choice following a recent maiden score at Gulfstream Park, finished three lengths better than the 8-1 Cozzetti in third. Next came 2-1 favorite Spring Hill Farm in fourth. Ravelo's Boy, Battle Hardened, Twin, Chief Energy, Fox Rules, Cajun Charlie and Tell All You Know completed the order of finish. Take Charge Indy was scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm, Prospective is out of stakes-winning Awesome Again mare Spirited Away and was purchased for $250,000 at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August sale. His third maternal dam is the multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire North Sider.
After posting a maiden win at Woodbine last October, Prospective jumped straight to stakes company with a victory in the aforementioned Grey on Polytrack. He did not fire when trying dirt in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, checking in last among 13 starters, but bounced back this year with a sharp performance in his sophomore bow, winning the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by a half-length. After breaking from post 11 in the Sam F. Davis, he was compromised by a wide trip, taking the overland route on both turns, but closed determinedly to miss by 1 1/4 lengths.
"The pace was much faster than in the Sam F. Davis and the blinkers seemed to make him more aggressive. Man, did he want to run today," Contreras said. "But he let me keep him in hand when there was an opening between horses making the far turn. I asked him again entering the stretch and I thought we had it won, but then (Golden Ticket) came up inside us and he had to respond again."
"I was shocked he made the lead so early today, but with the blinkers he was much more aggressive," Casse said. "He's a character -- he just does what he has to do."
Prospective put himself squarely in the Kentucky Derby picture Saturday and Casse indicated that he may be pointed toward the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct On April 7.
"The Oxleys have stepped up and given me the opportunity to be able to go out and buy horses, so to be able to reward them with something like this is special," the trainer said.