Triple Crown: Tampa Bay Derby picks and analysis

The Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby is a 50-point Kentucky Derby prep run at Tampa Bay Downs with a purse of $400,000. Going 1 1/16 miles, the Tampa Bay Derby has mostly flown under the radar as a prep race for the Derby, with the most recent Derby success story from this race being Street Sense in 2007. 

While the winner in Tampa hasn’t fared well in Kentucky since then, many of these runners have had solid careers after the Derby trail. Trainer Todd Pletcher leads the way all time with six Tampa Bay Derby victories and here enters Heartened in this year’s field of 10 off of his maiden victory Feb. 10 over this track. A duo of Chad Brown entries will challenge Pletcher with Klaravich Stables’ Domestic Product being the top contender (8-5) and joined by Calumet Farm’s longshot Good Money (15-1). 

Sam F. Davis Stakes winner No More Time (7-5) should challenge Domestic Product for favoritism. With 20 Derby points already from Tampa’s Sam F. Davis, No More Time has an advantage over this group, and familiarity over this track should give him a leg up on some others as well. He’s trained by Jose D’Angelo for Morplay Racing.

The Iowa-bred No More Time will break from the seven post after picking up jockey Javier Castellano in the irons. Scoring a front-running victory in the Sam F. Davis a month ago, this colt will likely be in control of this race early and has done his best running near the lead. As the only stakes winner in this field, No More Time will only be challenged if he faces significant pace pressure, which the others have not consistently shown. 

The longshot Catire Vizcaya (30-1) to his inside has shown some speed in the past in his first two tries, but will need to break sharper to be a factor early and appears distance-limited. Still, No More Time was able to go gate-to-wire at this distance even with quick early fractions, so he may simply be a bit further ahead on his maturation process than these other three year olds.

Domestic Product is the only other runner who has shown the form to be able to challenge No More Time here. Breaking from the five hole, this colt by Practical Joke-Goods and Services, by Paynter comes off of back-to-back graded tries, recently finishing a respectable second in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. As one that has run well going past eight furlongs, distance should be no problem here assuming the track is dry. 

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione should have Domestic Product positioned right off the leaders, hoping to take advantage of a slower pace and pass lesser horses in the stretch. The only concern could be that this one has only run well when the initial fractions have been sluggish, but with a potential lack of pace in this field, it might not be an issue here. 

After the top pair, it seems appropriate to look at the inside runner Heartened, trained by Todd Pletcher, who looks to add his seventh Tampa Bay Derby to his resume. At 10-1 morning line, this one will fly a bit under the radar, though the value will likely drop come post time. Heartened broke his maiden for his first victory in four tries on February 10 over this track, finishing strongly after holding the lead for most of that effort. After two turf attempts, returning to the dirt and dropping slightly in class was enough for this colt to show improvement. He could be starting to round into form here as a three-year-old. 

No More Time
No More Time went to the front and kept on going to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Downs.

Jose Ortiz will remain in the irons, likely aiming for similar control of this race as last time out. Similar to Domestic Product, slower fractions may be vital for this runner to have winning chances, but there still needs to be improvement and the right setup for this one to end up in the mix at the wire.

Perhaps the most interesting runner of the bunch, the outside-breaking Sturdy (8-1), enters with no wins in three tries, all at the maiden level. With a yearling price tag of $200,000, Sturdy had high hopes going into his two-year-old season but finished third by twenty lengths in his debut.

He followed that one up off the bench by finishing a somewhat distant second to Domestic Product at nine furlongs, showing some improvement, but still lacking as a short favorite. His race two weeks ago ended with another show, this time by only half a length with a good closing kick in the late stretch. Some more seasoning may be needed before this step up in class for Sturdy, as he continues to trend upwards in speed figures and shows no distance limitations in his form. 

Breaking directly inside of Sturdy is Grand Mo the First, a 12-1 morning line runner by Uncle Mo who has also been maturing into his three-year-old season with improvements in every race in speed figures. Off of his fourth career try, a third-place finish in the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream, this colt ran on a natural dirt surface for the first time, settling in mid-pack for most of the race. As one that stretches out in distance from seven furlongs, Grand Mo the First’s jockey Samy Camacho may have him a bit more forward than usual. But he may be best looking to pick up the pieces in the scenario of quicker fractions. 

Even with these longshots among other less accomplished runners, the top choices seem formidable here and are the most likely if their form holds. The upside of a few who appear to be beginning to peak might be enough to tackle Domestic Product and No More Time, however, but it will still require an uptick in their performance. While Tampa Bay Downs hasn’t produced the best Derby runners as of late, this race should certainly set up a few who will end up thriving going forward as three-year-olds and beyond. 

The Tampa Bay Derby is the eleventh race on Tampa Bay Downs’ Saturday card with a post time of 5:18 EST.


1. #7 No More Time (7-5)

2. #5 Domestic Product (8-5)

3. #1 Heartened (10-1) 

4. #10 Sturdy (8-1)