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Check out our predictions and odds for the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs!
OPUS FORTY TWO
DREAMING OF SNOW
GUNS N’ GRACES
H R Diaz Jr
TICKER TAPE HOME
A A Gallardo
*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
$5 Trifecta Box - Wonder Wheel, Julia Shining and Champagne Calling = $30
$20 Exacta - Wonder Wheel over Julia Shining = $20
$10 Exacta - Wonder Wheel over Champagne Calling = $10
If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Wonder Wheel (6/5).
A champion returns on Saturday as Wonder Wheel makes her first start since a victorious run in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to headline a field of nine in the $125,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Trained by Mark Casse, the daughter of Into Mischief won 4-of-5 starts as a 2-year-old. She easily accounted for a maiden and the Debutante Stakes, both at Churchill Downs, to start her career.
After a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga, she got better in two starts around two turns, with a game win in the Grade 1 Alcibiades, before a very impressive championship clinching win at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup.
Chief among her opposition in the one mile and 40 yard Suncoast is the regally bred and unbeaten filly Julia Shining.
As a daughter of Curlin and Dreaming of Julia, not only was the Todd Pletcher-trainee produced by two top runners, but she is also a full sister to the same trainer’s two-time champion Malathaat.
The Stonestreet homebred made a splashy debut last October when she came from the clouds to win a Keeneland maiden race going away. She followed that up with a determined late run to win a sloppy edition of the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct.
As a Kentucky Oaks trail race, the Suncoast will award qualifying points on a 20-8-6-4-2 to the first five finishers.
Not only was this Mark Casse-trained runner a deserving champion last year, but she was also a versatile runner who was able to win while on the early lead, from a stalking position, and from well back. That ability should suit her well as she transitions to her 3-year-old season.
Off for just over three months, she has been working sharply at her stable training center for her return and should account herself well, as usual. Breaking from the rail, she should be able to go back to her near the lead tactics here.
You never know for sure how a filly is going to transition from year to year, but this one looks like a good bet to come back running. She is strictly the one to beat, and is the top pick.
The main opposition to the champ, this impeccably bred daughter of Curlin has shown little early speed in her first two career races. The fact that she was able to win both, considering where she was early, is a testament to her talent.
In both a full-field maiden race at Keeneland, then in a sloppy edition of the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct, she flaunted a ferocious rally that would not allow her to beat. Of course, she has never faced the likes of Wonder Wheel in those first two starts.
Her last race was just over two months ago, and she has also been working well for her sophomore debut. Clearly the top threat to the favorite, she might be left with too much to do in the stretch of this one.
A winner of the local prep for this one in the 7-furlong Gasparilla, this daughter of Mendelssohn has never finished worse for second in four lifetime starts.
After two second-place finishes in turf sprints to begin her career, she switched to dirt when she arrived at Tampa Bay Downs, where she easily broke her maiden before holding on by a nose in her stakes debut.
With good tactical speed, form and liking of the track, she must be respected, but I would expect this test to be substantially more difficult than her narrow stakes win last time.
From the barn of Chad Brown, this lightly raced filly was a distant second in her debut at Aqueduct, but showed solid improvement next out. That race came at Tampa Bay Downs, where she won a maiden race going away at the same distance as the Suncoast.
As the daughter of Gun Runner out of an Empire Maker mare, she should only improve with seasoning.
A $375,000 yearling purchase, you would expect her to move forward off her first two, but she will need to here, because her two maiden performances are not yet in the ballpark of a filly as good as Wonder Wheel.
Another filly with only two-lifetime starts, this daughter of Empire Maker looks very interesting. Trained by Ian Wilkes, you would expect her to not only get better with racing but also as the distances increase.
Still, she has looked pretty good in a pair of sprints. First, she rallied to be third in a strong maiden sprint back in June at Churchill Downs. After a sizable layoff, she returned to the races at Tampa Bay Downs and came from off the pace to win nicely at 7 furlongs.
Like most in the field, she is making a big jump up in class, but I like her potential and the move to two turns. After the obvious top two, I think she is the most likely to make some noise on Saturday.
While Opus Forty Two was just holding on for the win in the Gasparilla, this was the filly that just missed getting by her. She had a decent enough record in her first three races at Gulfstream Park, but they all came against state-breds.
Her rallying performance on her first try at Tampa Bay Downs was an improved effort. If she can make another move forward and if she appreciates her first try at a distance, she is a threat to be a part of the exotics.
The other Mark Casse-trained runner has an interesting record. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro seemed to be going nowhere fast after a pair of dull efforts at Saratoga in her second and third career starts.
Perhaps it was a return to familiar surroundings, the addition of Lasix, or perhaps the competition north of the border was weaker, but she really seemed to wake up back at Woodbine.
In both a maiden romp on the turf and then a second against males in the Display Stakes, she looked like a talented filly. She will be back off Lasix on Saturday, and she will make her first start on the dirt, so there will be big questions as she faces a strong field. I prefer others here.
Another filly coming out of the Gasparilla, this daughter of Jess’s Dream could only manage a fourth-place finish in that one.
Twice a winner in four starts, she does bring plenty of speed to the table, but on her first try around two turns, it looks like she has found a very difficult spot.
Given the way she has faded out of contention in both previous stakes attempts, I am hard-pressed to believe that she can be a major threat when the real running begins.
After barely winning against maiden claiming competition in her debut at Laurel, this gray daughter of Cross Traffic was able to improve a bit in her next outing in a restricted stakes race at the same track.
She doesn’t look like a claimer, but there will be fillies in here that are simply much better than she has faced before. It would be a surprise if the Maryland-bred daughter of Cross Traffic can be a serious factor against this field in her third-lifetime start.
Suncoast Stakes Race Information
What: Suncoast Stakes
Location: Tampa Bay Downs
Time: Saturday, February 11 -- 4:48 pm Eastern time
How to Watch: FanDuel TV
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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