Heart and 'Sole' in Tampa

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Moving from strength to strength since kicking off his career last October, Sole Volante (Karakontie {Jpn}) has been tabbed the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday's GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. A winner on the turf in his first two starts last season, including the Pulpit S. at Gulfstream Park Nov. 30, the gelding finished a credible third in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man S. and later in the month, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing bought a majority stake in the Triple Crown prospect, joining owners Andie Biancone and Limelight Stables Corp. Trained by Patrick Biancone, Sole Volante went off the third choice at 5-1 in the Tampa Bay Derby prep–the Feb. 8 GIII Sam F. Davis S.–and made short work of a field that include the previously undefeated favorite Independence Hall (Constitution) to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

One of the early favorites leading up to last weekend's GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S. at Gulfstream, Mucho Macho Man S. winner Chance It (Currency Swap) never made it into the lineup when his connections, not anticipating more than eight horses in the field, opted to scratch after drawing the outside 12 hole in the 1 1/16-mile prep for the GI Florida Derby. More favorably drawn in post four in the 12-horse Tampa Bay Derby field, Chance it will be ridden by Paco Lopez for the first time.

Godolphin's Spa City (Street Sense) makes the jump from maidens to graded company for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who recently announced his decision that he will be stepping back from training in favor of becoming the agent for jockey Luis Saez Apr. 1. An even fifth in his career debut going six furlongs at Gulfstream Dec. 21, the bay was an improved second while trying a mile at the Hallandale oval Jan. 11. Appreciating the added furlong for his latest start Feb. 8, Spa City came from just off the pace to score by a length.

“We liked him a lot from the start,” recalled McLaughlin. “We ran him the first time and it was too short for him and he ran fifth and then he was second. He's a big colt, close to 17 hands, and wants to run all day. Last time, we ran him back a little bit quick but he was impressive. We think he's a really nice colt so we're going to step up with him.”

Explaining the decision to go to Tampa rather than remain locally, McLaughlin said, “It's because of the timing of the [Tampa Bay Derby]. He ran so well last time, and it was a bit fast, three weeks to the Fountain of Youth, we really wanted to give him four weeks in between races.”

McLaughlin added, “Tampa is a kind surface, and it's a little bit sandier, and it seems horses handle it pretty well. Also, having speed is a plus at Tampa, so we think it will suit Spa City.”

When asked about the sophomore's Classic chances, McLaughlin said, “He's a large colt with a big stride and a great mind and he just does everything right. We'll try to go that route and if he takes us there, great, and if not, we won't force the situation. But he's done everything right so far and we're excited about his future.”

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