Candy Man Rocket ‘Smooth As Silk’ In Final Prep For Tampa Bay Derby

Candy Man Rocket, who burst onto the scene as a legitimate Triple Crown candidate by winning the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes here on Feb. 6, and Grade 3 2-year-old winner Sittin On Go are expected to head a large field in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.

The 41st annual Tampa Bay Downs showcase is one of five stakes races scheduled on the Festival Day 41 Presented by Lambholm South card. The mile-and-a-sixteenth race for 3-year-olds on the main dirt track is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, with the top four finishers earning 50, 20, 10 and 5 points toward qualifying for a spot in the Run for the Roses starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 1.

As is always the case this time of year, the majority of attention will shift to the 3-year-old Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve hopefuls.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott – who won the 2019 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby with Tacitus and that year’s Kentucky Derby with Country House, with Tacitus finishing third – sent Candy Man Rocket out for a 4-furlong breeze Sunday at his Payson Park Training Center base in Indiantown, Fla., where the Frank Fletcher Racing Operations-owned colt turned in a time of 48 3/5 seconds, the best of 36 workouts at the half-mile distance.

“He was on his own, he went well and I’m very pleased with him. He looked as smooth as silk,” Mott said via telephone. “He is a good work horse anyway, but I liked the way he did it. The (Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby) has been on our minds since he won the Sam F. Davis. Any time you get a horse that runs well over that racetrack, you have to give it consideration.”

While Kentucky Derby qualifying points can be very crucial, Mott knows the important thing at this stage is to continue to build on the colt’s foundation for a possible try at a mile-and-a-quarter at Churchill Downs.

“It seems like he is doing equally as well now as he was before the Davis,” Mott said. “He’s got good natural speed away from the gate, which can always be an advantage for any horse, position-wise. The chances of getting a good trip might be better than they would for a deep closer, especially in a big field.”

Junior Alvarado will again come up from Gulfstream Park to ride Candy Man Rocket.

Mott said the owner, Frank Fletcher, is excited about Candy Man Rocket’s chances to be the first horse to complete the Sam F. Davis-Tampa Bay Derby double since Destin in 2016.

“He is someone who is enthusiastic about his horses, loves the game and is happy just to have a horse in a race like this,” Mott said.

The trainer said he is still debating the next start for his Sam F. Davis runner-up, breeder-owner Michael Shanley’s Nova Rags, who won the Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 16. Mott said the March 13 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, the March 20 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and the March 27 Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa are all under consideration.

Sittin On Go, who won the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes last September at Churchill Downs, is expected to make his first start since a sixth-place finish on Jan. 30 in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Albaugh Family Stables-owned colt is trained by Dale Romans.

Also expected to compete in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby are the third and fourth-place finishers in the Sam F. Davis, Hidden Stash and the gelding Boca Boy. Hidden Stash is owned by BBN Racing and trained by Victoria Oliver and Boca Boy is owned by Kenneth E. Fishbein and trained by Cheryl Winebaugh.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby a record five times, including three in a row from 2015-2017, is expected to return with Woodford Thoroughbreds and WinStar Farm’s Promise Keeper. The colt broke his maiden on Feb. 6 at Gulfstream in his second start, winning a mile maiden special weight race by 5 lengths on a sloppy track.

Pletcher is also expected to enter Whisper Hill Farm’s Unbridled Honor, who broke his maiden here on the Sam F. Davis undercard going a mile-and-40 yards.

King of Dreams, who broke his maiden at Gulfstream on Jan. 30, is expected to start for owner Victoria’s Ranch and trainer Juan Carlos Avila, the same connections who won last year’s Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby with 49-1 shot King Guillermo. Victoria’s Ranch is the stable name for retired major league slugger Victor Martinez.

Mark Casse, who sent out Prospective to win the 2012 Tampa Bay Derby, is expected to enter D. J. Stable’s Helium. The colt was 2-for-2 as a 2-year-old, winning the 7-furlong Display Stakes on Oct. 18 on the all-weather synthetic Tapeta track at Woodbine in Toronto.

Other likely Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby entrants include trainer Shawn H. Davis’s Hello Hot Rod, a winner of three of four lifetime starts, including the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes on Jan. 31 at Aqueduct; Moonlite Strike, trainer Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.’s colt who is 2-for-4; Joseph’s Super Strong, whose lone start on Dec. 19 at Camarero resulted in a victory in the Grade 1 Classico Agustin Mercado Revron Stakes; and My Liberty, a maiden winner from the barn of Maria Ines Mejia.

The post Candy Man Rocket ‘Smooth As Silk’ In Final Prep For Tampa Bay Derby appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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