Scully's stakes spot plays for March 12

Profile Picture: James Scully

March 11th, 2022

Kentucky Derby hopefuls will be in the spotlight in the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), an 85-point Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier, and Tampa Bay Downs will offer a total of five stakes on Saturday’s 12-race program.

I’ll give a few plays from the stakes action, along with a pick for the Azeri S. (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

Hillsborough (G2), Tampa Bay – Race 7 (3:14 p.m. ET)

The Feb. 5 Endeavour (G3) at Tampa had more pace, and #3 Lady Speightspeare dueled on the front end before finishing a respectable second, but the four-year-old filly has the opportunity to be lone speed here. A Grade 1 winner at two, Lady Speightspeare missed nearly a year before returning for Roger Attfield last fall, and she appears to be rounding into top form presently.

Challenger (G3), Tampa Bay – Race 8 (3:49 p.m. ET)

#9 Cody’s Wish will make his stakes debut in the Challenger (G3) following a layoff, and the Bill Mott-trained colt should be prominent early with Luis Saez. Little speed is signed on for the 1 1/16-mile race, which doesn’t help a couple main rivals, and Cody’s Wish appears to be training forwardly in preparation. The Curlin colt ended last season on a strong note, recording three straight convincing wins at Churchill, and I expect more from Cody’s Wish at age four.

Tampa Bay Derby (G2) – Race 11 (5:23 p.m. ET)

#9 Shipsational broke poorly and was stuck in traffic behind a wall of horses until altering outside for the stretch of the Sam F. Davis (G3), and the chestnut colt finished fast to be a clear second, netting his third consecutive triple-digit Brisnet Late Pace rating. A wire-to-wire winner of a New York-bred stakes in his previous outing last fall, the Midshipman colt possesses more tactical speed than displayed last time and won’t be as far back if he breaks better Saturday. Shipsational signaled his readiness for his second start of the year, recording back-to-back bullet works in advance of the Tampa Bay Derby, and he rates top billing.

Azeri (G2) – Race 9 (6:10 p.m. ET)

The 1 1/16-mile race will feature a couple of multiple Grade 1 winners, Ce Ce and Shedaresthedevil, and the latter will make a title defense after defeating Letruska last year. Shedaresthedevil was the speed last year, and is eligible to be forwardly-placed in her first start since early November, but a couple of speedballs, Lady Mystify and Super Quick, should guarantee a hot tempo.

#5 Ce Ce will take advantage. Winner of the 2020 Apple Blossom (G1), the mare had success when cutting back to sprints early last season, eventually being named champion female sprinter, but today’s distance is well within her scope and she will receive a favorable setup. Ce Ce gained fitness when rallying for second behind wire-to-wire winner Merneith in the Santa Monica (G2) last out, and the stalker will be poised to strike turning for home in the Azeri.