The 2019 Kentucky Derby Trail returns to Tampa Bay Downs as part of Saturday’s race card for the running of the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby. As one of the key prep races on the slate in early March, every contender in the 11-horse field is looking to take that next step towards earning an entry in this year’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 4.
The field for this Saturday’s main event has been set with a few of the top trainers represented by a quality three-year-old. After breaking down a rather deep field, the following three entries would be my ‘best bet’ choice for a winning trifecta play.
2019 Tampa Bay Derby - Tampa Bay Downs
The Tampa Bay Derby is a Grade 2 stakes race open to three-year-old thoroughbreds with a total prize purse of $400,000 along with qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. The race will be contested on the dirt track at Tampa Bay at a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
It is only fitting that a pair of Florida-bred horses are at the top of the field when it comes to the early morning line odds to win this year’s Tampa Bay Derby. I am going with Well Defined as my top choice breaking from the No. 5 post as a 7/2 second favorite. Trained by Kathleen O’Connell and ridden by jockey Pablo Morales, this three-year-old gelding will be going for the season sweep in prep races at this track after winning the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 9. He covered the 1 1/16 miles on dirt in an impressive 1:42.70 over Kentucky Wildcat and So Alive. This was a vast improvement from a fifth-place finish in the ungraded Mucho Macho Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 5 in his three-year-old debut.
The son of With Distinction finished in the money four times in five events as a juvenile. The only exception was a distant 12th-place run in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. He comes into this race with a 6.39 rating at Horse Racing Nation.
My second choice in this race is actually the favorite to win at 5/2 odds on the morning line. Appropriately named Win Win Win, this product of the Sunshine State will break from the No. 7 post with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. on board. Trained by Mike Trombetta, he is coming off a victory in the ungraded Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay on Jan. 19. His winning time over the seven furlongs on dirt was 1:20.89. He ended his juvenile campaign with a second-place finish in the ungraded Heft Stakes at Laurel Park at that same distance.
Sired by Hat Trick, the big question is how this hometown favorite holds up over the much longer distance of this race. Also, he has yet to be tested against this deep of a field. Expectations remain high in light of his current odds and a solid 6.83 HRN rating.
It was a tough call to round out my trifecta pick for this race given the depth of talent in the rest of the field. I decided to stretch the odds bit with Outshine at 8/1 breaking from the No. 6 post. The duo of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Joel Rosario also add value to this Kentucky-bred colt’s chances to finish in the money. Lightly raced as a juvenile, he is coming off an impressive victory at Gulfstream in a seven-furlong Allowance Claimer on Feb. 9. He ran past The Right Path and Admiral Lynch in 1:23.18.
A pedigree of Malibu Moon with a bloodline traced all the way back to Seattle Slew, it will be interesting to see what he can do at this longer distance on Saturday afternoon.