Pasco, Gasparilla Stakes Highlight Saturday Card at Tampa Bay Downs
Although they’re not official prep races for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, a pair of stakes races on January 20th at Tampa Bay Downs could potentially launch a horse or two on their way to Churchill Downs.First up is the $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint for three-year-old fillies. The clear favorite could be Almond Roca, a promising daughter of Speightstown trained by Graham Motion. Almond Roca already has four starts under her belt, including an easy 9 ¼-length triumph in the six-furlong Sandpiper Stakes here at Tampa Bay Downs last month, a performance that has stamped her as the horse to beat. Barrier Island, a winner going a mile at Gulfstream Park last month, and Homemade Salsa, winner of the Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park, are other logical contenders. Passion Plus, unbeaten in two starts on turf, could also be a player while trying dirt for the first time.
The colts will get their chance to shine in the seven-furlong $125,000 Pasco Stakes, which has drawn the unbeaten He Hate Me. The son of Algorithms opened his career with a pair of wins at Pimlico and Belmont last spring, including a decisive triumph in the 5 ½-furlong Tremont Stakes, but hasn’t run since then and will be returning from a long layoff. Awaken, a two-time stakes winner against Ohio-breds, will be cutting back in distance off a couple of strong efforts going a mile or farther, while World of Trouble ships in from Gulfstream Park, where he broke his maiden by 14 lengths and ran second in the Florida Sire Affirmed Stakes last summer.
The day’s stakes action wraps up with the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes, an 8.5-furlong event for fillies and mares. The heavy favorite figures to be Tapa Tapa Tapa, a daughter of Tapit that is 2-for-2 at Tampa Bay Downs. She recently returned from a layoff to win an allowance optional claiming race over this track by 12 ½ lengths, missing the track record by less than a second while earning huge speed figures. Folk Magic and Ms. Scarlet Fever, second and third in that race, will try to turn the tables, while Tejana—second by a neck in the Monmouth Oaks (gr. III) last summer—will will be seeking her first stakes win while running for the first time since September.
Post time for the first race of the day is 12:12 p.m. Eastern.