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This weekend we will turn our attention to an afternoon card with four stakes races at Tampa Bay Downs. Leading the way on Saturday will be prep races for both the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. The Grade 3 Sam F. Davis has attracted a wide-open field of twelve, where Change of Command and Agate Road should vie for favoritism.
On the female side, Life Talk looks to be a strong favorite in the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes. The winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle in her most recent start faces only five other 3-year-old fillies. Sprints for both older males and older females complete the quartet of stakes races. Without further ado, let’s get to my best bets in four of the biggest races from the solid card of racing.
After three strong graded stakes races to close out her juvenile season, Life Talk will make her sophomore debut on Saturday as a clear favorite in the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes. The daughter of Gun Runner will look to give her trainer Todd Pletcher a record eighth victory in the Tampa Bay Downs prep for the Kentucky Oaks.
The bay filly made five starts in 2023 and all were solid. A 6 1/2-length maiden winner at Saratoga, she was beaten only 3 1/2 lengths in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies two starts back. Most recently, she went gate to wire to win the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct by nearly four lengths.
Among the five other fillies looking to upset Life Talk in the 1-mile and 40-yard affair are Power Squeeze and Whocouldaskformo. The former comes in off an impressive five-length score in the Cash Run Stakes at Gulfstream Park, while the latter romped in a local maiden race for trainer Shug McGaughey in her most recent start.
A longshot possibility on Saturday is the Greg Sacco-trained Gorgeous Girl. The daughter of Liam’s Map has had two good races over the track recently, finishing third against males in December, before finishing well to be second in the Gasparilla Stakes four weeks ago. She is sharp and should appreciate the added distance. She is the top pick for the upset.
$10 Win, Place & Show - Gorgeous Girl = $30
A Grade 1 winner of Saratoga’s Test Stakes back in 2022, Chi Town Lady looks to return to top form when she headlines a field of nine older female sprinters in the 6-furlong Minaret Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday.
Trained by Wesley Ward, the classy 5-year-old daughter of Verrazano only made it to the races twice last year and finished third both times. This will be her first start since rallying for third in a Belmont Park allowance race in June. Working well for her return, she will look to come running with her strong late rally.
Among her most dangerous opposition on Saturday could be a pair of mares who ran in Gulfstream Park’s Rampart Stakes last time out. Unifying and Dreaming of Snow are both stakes winners and finished third and fifth, respectively, behind the winner Maryquitecontrary. The latter won the Suncoast Stakes on this same card last year at Tampa Bay Downs.
Another filly to watch in the Minaret is Lady Radler. She earned her biggest win to date two starts back when she scored in the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs. She was outrun last time out, though, when well beaten in the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland. I have a feeling Ward will have Chi Town Lady ready in her return and she will be the top pick.
$10 Exacta Box - Chi Town Lady and Unifying = $20
$10 Exacta Box - Chi Town Lady and Dreaming of Snow = $20
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Two of the nation’s top older sprinters, Nakatomi and Sibelius will square off on Saturday as they headline a field of eight older males entered in the $100,000 Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Nakatomi will likely be the favorite after a strong third-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint in his most recent race. Trained by Wesley Ward, the 5-year-old son of Firing Line has won 5-of-15 career races and more than $750,000 in his career. Beaten only two lengths by the two-time champion Elite Power, his effort in the Breeders’ Cup was likely the best performance of his career.
Sibelius cannot be discounted, though. The multiple stakes winner has banked over $1.7 million in his career and is the defending champion of the Pelican. A gelded son of Not This Time, he likes to be part of the early pace and comes in off a sharp win in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector in his most recent start.
Of the rest, Super Ocho could be the speed of the speed in a race loaded with it. A son of Dubai Sky, he has won seven races lifetime and like the two favorites comes in off a very good performance, having gone gate to wire at Oaklawn Park last out. Because of all the speed, I like Nakatomi from off the pace. He is the top pick.
$50 Win - Nakatomi = $50
Agate Road, for trainer Todd Pletcher, and Change of Command, for trainer Shug McGaughey, look to vie for favoritism among a wide-open field of twelve Kentucky Derby hopefuls entered in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.
A son of Quality Road, Agate Road just missed in his debut in a one-mile maiden race on the dirt at Saratoga. Since then, he has made a name for himself on the turf with four solid performances. Among them was a convincing win in the Grade 2 Pilgrim Stakes and a competitive effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Change of Command, meanwhile, will be making his stakes debut on Saturday. The high-priced son of Into Mischief has been on the improve since running fourth in his debut behind Fierceness in August. Breaking through to romp in his fourth career start, he followed that maiden win at Gulfstream Park up with a game allowance score at the same track five weeks ago.
Several others in the field look to have the talent to challenge for the win against the top two. I find Copper Tax to be the most intriguing of the bunch. Trained by Gary Capuano, the son of Copper Bullet failed against a tough field in the mud last time in the Remsen, but before that had reeled off straight wins in the Mid-Atlantic. The two-time stakes winner is a versatile runner who should be able to take advantage of the fast pace. He is the top pick.
$20 Win, Place & Show - Copper Tax = $60
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Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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