The First Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” continues Saturday with the 33rd running of the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade II) and the 76th running of the $300,000 San Felipe (GII).
The field of nine for the Tampa Bay Derby, which has produced Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winners Street Sense (2007) and Super Saver (2010), is headlined by Verrazano, who was made the individual favorite in the first two pools of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager after winning his first two races by a combined 24 lengths. Despite not earning any Kentucky Derby points yet, a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby would vault Verrazano into the Top 5 and all but guarantee him a spot in the “Run for the Roses.”
Verrazano, a half-brother to Risen Star (GII) winner and 2012 Kentucky Derby runner El Padrino, made his career debut on Jan. 1. The lone winner of the Kentucky Derby that did not race as a 2-year-old is Apollo in 1882.
The group that will line up to face Verrazano includes Falling Sky (ranked No. 17 on the Kentucky Derby Point Standings) and Dynamic Sky (No. 22), the 1-2 finishers in the Sam F. Davis (GIII), Hutcheson (GII) winner Honorable Dillon and undefeated stakes winner Purple Egg.
Falling Sky, who bested Dynamic Sky by a neck in the Sam F. Davis, is a Pennsylvania-bred son of Lion Heart, who finished second in the 2004 Kentucky Derby to Smarty Jones, the last Pennsylvania-bred to win the historic 1 ¼-mile race.
Dynamic Sky, owned by 2001 Kentucky Derby winner John Oxley, broke his maiden at Woodbine in the Simcoe and won the Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs in January. Should he earn his way to the Kentucky Derby and win, Dynamic Sky, bred in Canada by Arosa Farms, would become the first foreign-bred winner of the Derby since Sunny’s Halo in 1983.
Honorable Dillon and Purple Egg both will have questions to answer Saturday. Honorable Dillon will be tested beyond seven furlongs for the first time in his career and Purple Egg, who also is untested in route races, will be making his first start since December.
The field of eight entered in the San Felipe, a race that has produced 11 Kentucky Derby winners, is topped by the undefeated Robert B. Lewis (GII) winner Flashback (No. 18) and Goldencents (No. 5), who is coming off victories in the Sham (GIII) and Delta Jackpot (GIII).
Prior to winning the Robert B. Lewis, Flashback, who is trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, broke his maiden on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park. Three of the last four Derby winners, including I’ll Have Another (2012), Animal Kingdom (2011) and Mine That Bird (2009), broke their maidens on a synthetic surface.
Goldencents, who is co-owned by University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino, has won three of his four career starts with his lone loss coming in the Champagne (GI) to eventual juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby. A bay son of Into Mischief, Goldencents is trained by 2012 Kentucky Derby winner Doug O’Neill. The last trainer to saddle back-to-back Derby winners was Baffert, who won with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998.
The Top 4 finishers in the Tampa Bay Derby, which is scheduled as Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs at 5:15 p.m. (all times Eastern), and the San Felipe, which will go as Race 7 at Santa Anita at 6:35 p.m., will be awarded points on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
10 THINGS TO WATCH THIS WEEK
1. Verrazano, the individual favorite in the first two pools of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, makes his stakes debut in Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs.
2. Undefeated Robert B. Lewis winner Flashback makes his third career start in Saturday's San Felipe at Santa Anita.
3. Goldencents, co-owned by University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino, will seek his third straight stakes victory in the San Felipe.
4. Falling Sky and Dynamic Sky, separated by just a neck in the Sam F. Davis, rematch in the Tampa Bay Derby.
5. Flashy Gray, favored in the lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, makes her stakes debut in Saturday's Honeybee at Oaklawn Park.
6. Delta Princess winner Rose to Gold seeks to bounce back from a runner-up performance in the Martha Washington in the Honeybee under new rider Calvin Borel.
7. Hutcheson winner Honorable Dillon will stretch out beyond seven furlongs for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby.
8. Undefeated Whiskey Romeo and impressive Jimmy Winkfield winner Clawback headline the field for Saturday's Fred "Cappy" Capossela at Aqueduct.
9. Noble Tune, runner up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, makes his 3-year-old debut in a turf allowance on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs against a field that includes Grade III winner Pataky Kid.
10. Close Hatches, a winner by seven lengths in her career debut, makes her second career start in the Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday.