18th Annual Florida Cup Offers Six $110,000 Stakes At Tampa Bay Downs

A total of 53 horses have been entered in Sunday’s six $110,000-guaranteed Florida Cup Day stakes races that are part of a 12-race Tampa Bay Downs card in Oldsmar, Fla. Post time for the first race is noon.

All of the Florida Cup stakes races are for registered Florida-breds.

The 18th annual Florida Cup, which was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has attracted horses from the barns of top trainers such as Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher, Michael Maker, Mark Casse and Christophe Clement, as well as Tampa Bay Downs mainstays Gerald Bennett and Kathleen O’Connell.

A number of Gulfstream Park-based jockeys will make the trip north to ride, including Joe Bravo, Paco Lopez, Corey Lanerie, Edgard Zayas and Chantal Sutherland, who recently announced she will return to the saddle in Florida after a brief hiatus. Sutherland will be aboard the 5-year-old mare Kelsey’s Cross in the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf.

The Florida Cup action starts with the fifth race, the Equistaff Sophomore Turf for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the grass. Seven are entered, headed by Maker’s Grade 3 stakes winner Chess’s Dream, who will be ridden by Daniel Centeno.

Next up for Florida Cup runners is the seventh race, the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore for 3-year-olds racing seven furlongs on the main track. Top contenders in the eight-horse field are multiple-stakes winner Breeze On By, from the barn of Ralph Nicks, and Jeff Engler’s stakes winner Willy Boi.

Zayas will be on Breeze On By and Lanerie will ride Willy Boi.

The eighth race is the 1 1/8-mile Grey Goose Turf Classic, with six horses set to go to the post. Pletcher’s 4-year-old colt Shamrocket, to be ridden by Zayas, and Maker’s distance-loving 4-year-old gelding Me and Mr. C, with Centeno named, appear to be the leading challengers.

The ninth race, the NYRA Bets Sprint for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at six furlongs on the dirt, drew a wide-open field of 10. The 4-year-old colt Shivaree – last year’s Florida Derby runner-up – won the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes in December and may be the post-time wagering favorite. Trainer Ralph Nicks has named Lanerie to ride.

A field of 10 fillies and mares 3 and upward will contest the Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, which is the 10th race at 1 1/16 miles. Trainer Darien Rodriguez’s Crown and Sugar, the 2019 race winner, and Cam Gambolati’s 6-year-old Bienville Street are among those who will attempt to deny Suthlerland a storybook comeback, at least on Sunday. Gallardo is named on Crown and Sugar and Lopez is named on Bienville Street. Another to watch is 5-year-old Beautiful Lover, trained by Clement and to be ridden by Bravo.

The Florida Cup action wraps up with the 11th race, the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies for 3-year-old lasses racing seven furlongs on the main track. The 12-horse field includes the O’Connell-trained Fan Fan, to be ridden by Hector Diaz, Jr., and the dead-heat winners of the Jan. 16 Gasparilla Stakes, Adios Trippi and Special Princess. Adios Trippi will be ridden by Gallardo and Special Princess will have the services of Jose Ferrer.

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