Taking Stock: Tampa Bay's Big Day Showcased Top Outfits, Bloodstock

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Classic Causeway |
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Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Florida, is a gem of a racecourse that doesn't get the accolades it should. Owned by Stella Thayer, president of the track and a member of The Jockey Club, and her brother, Howell Ferguson, Tampa Bay Downs is expertly managed day to day by Peter Berube, vice president and general manager, and Margo Flynn, vice president of marketing. This was obvious on Saturday–“Festival Day 42”–when the track showcased its signature event, the Gll Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, one of five black-type events on the day that attracted some of the best horsemen and outfits on the East Coast as well as a full house of racegoers and bettors. Handle for the day was a record $20.7 million.

The track is one of the few successes in N. America that operates without the benefit of slots money, although a card room does contribute minimally. Purses, therefore, pale next to other tracks with casino affiliations, but Tampa Bay Downs is the model for sustainable racing without the slots subsidies and it continues to attract South Florida-based powerhouses like Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, Mark Casse, Graham Motion, and Shug McGaughey, to name a few, for the quality of its racing on turf and dirt, despite its lower overall purse structure.

The big stables usually have the better stock, and this was evident in the black-type events Saturday. Heavy rain had pelted the track before noon, notably softening the turf course, but by race time for the first stakes race on the 12-race program, the Gll Hillsborough S. at 1 1/8 miles on turf for fillies and mares, carded as the seventh race, the weather was sunny and windy and both the main course and the turf were labelled as “good.”

Bleecker Street

Chad Brown had two in the $225,000 race for owner Peter Brant, Bleecker Street (Quality Road), the favorite; and imported Rocky Sky (Ire) (Rock of Gibralter {Ire}). They ran one-two, with Bleeker Street almost four lengths the better as the easiest kind of winner. Charles Fipke's Grade l winner Lady Speightspeare (Speightstown), the second choice trained by Roger Attfield, had a dream trip prompting the pace but the give in the ground and her first attempt past a mile and a sixteenth took its toll. She finished fourth, almost a length behind Gladys (Medaglia d'Oro), Rachel Alexandra's full sister, in third.

Bleecker Street is a lightly raced 4-year-old filly and is a star in the making, and it's important to note that she's done most of her important work to date at Tampa. Undefeated now in five starts, Bleecker Street's Hillsborough was her third consecutive race at Tampa, following an earlier defeat of the aforementioned Lady Speightspeare in the Glll Endeavour over the same course at a mile and a sixteenth last month. She's now ready to take on Grade l competition, perhaps at Keeneland next, and will likely become a full-fledged star on the national stage as the year progresses. If she does, it's because Tampa Bay Downs afforded her the early opportunity for development.

Bleecker Street's sire Quality Road is one of the elite stallions in N. America and is adept at getting high-quality horses on dirt and turf; he stands for $150,000 at Lane's End. Bred in Kentucky by Branch Equine, Bleecker Street was purchased by Brant's White Birch Farm for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale. From the restricted stakes-placed Exchange Rate mare Lemon Liqueur, she's her dam's first black-type winner. The next dam, the stakes-placed Lemon Drop Kid mare Limoncella, had only one stakes horse–Bleecker Street's dam. This isn't a particularly strong pedigree in terms of black-type production until the fourth dam, Key to Flight, by Key to the Kingdom. She's a half-sister to Group 1 winner and Irish champion 2-year-old filly Minstrella and Grade ll winner Misty Gallore–all of them produced by the influential Flight Dancer, Bleecker Street's fifth dam and Gun Runner's (Candy Ride) fourth dam.

Ned Evans owned Flight Dancer and bred Key to Flight as well as her Halo daughter Trip Around Heaven, Bleecker Street's third dam, and there's some symmetry to this mating as Evans also bred and raced Quality Road, giving Bleecker Street Evans's touch on top and bottom.

Bleecker Street is one of six black-type winners bred on the Quality Road/Danzig cross and others include Illuminant, a Grade l winner on the turf; and Captain Scotty, a Grade ll winner on dirt.

Tampa Bay Downs carded its five black-type races consecutively and the winners of those races are discussed in order below.

Scalding

Scalding (Nyquist), a 4-year-old colt trained by McGaughey for Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stable, and LNJ Foxwoods, won the $100,000 Glll Michelob Ultra Challenger S. by a neck on the main track at a mile and a sixteenth from the Mott-trained and Godolphin-owned Cody's Wish (Curlin). Dynamic One (Union Rags), trained by Pletcher and owned by Repole Stable, Phipps Stable, and St. Elias Stable, was third. McGaughey's highly regarded Greatest Honour (Tapit) finished sixth of seven. The colts in this race were an incredibly well-bred and well-connected group.

Scalding was bred by Godolphin and Cobalt Investments and was purchased by Solis/Litt at the same sale and for the same price as Bleecker Street. He's a first-crop son of Nyquist, who led the freshman sire list in 2020, and he's the second black-type winner and graded winner for his sire this year. The 3-year-old Nyquist filly Turnerloose won the Gll Rachel Alexandra S. at Fair Grounds last month.

Scalding's dam is the unraced Medaglia d'Oro mare Hot Water, who also is the dam of Grade lll-placed black-type winner Tracksmith (Street Sense) and black-type placed Tortuga (Bodemeister). The next dam is the Elusive Quality Grade lll-placed restricted black-type winner Elusive Heat, one of two black-type winners for her Grade l-winning champion dam Xtra Heat, a daughter of Dixieland Heat who won 26 races from 34 starts and earned $2.4 million.

Dolce Zel (Fr)

Chad Brown was back at it again on the turf in the $200,000 Glll Florida Oaks at a mile and sixteenth, running one-two again, this time with French import Dolce Zel (Fr) (Zelzal {Fr}) getting the better of stablemate Spicer (Quality Road) by a head. The McGaughey-trained On Alert (Medaglia d'Oro) was third. The latter was a $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling while Spicer sold for $300,000 at Keeneland September.

Michael Dubb, Madaket, and Robert LaPenta purchased the pint-sized Dolce Zel privately. She is from the first crop of Zelzal, a Group 1 winner by Sea the Stars (Ire) who stands this year for 15,000 euros at Haras de Bouquetot and is represented by three black-type winners to date, including Ouraika (Fr), who also happens to be campaigned by Madaket and Michael Dubb. Ouraika won the Glll Sweet Life S. on the downhill turf at Santa Anita last month for Graham Motion, also by a head like Dolce Zel. Madaket and partners clearly know how to source lightly raced European runners off the beaten path for N. America and spread them out among top trainers here. And they're lucky in photo finishes, too.

Madaket is also involved with “The Avengers” group of SF Bloodstock and Starlight Racing that have campaigned so many notable 3-year-olds with Bob Baffert, including Gl Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, and, earlier, Triple Crown winner Justify.

Dolce Zel is a member of a strong and productive American family after the first dam, the Dr Fong mare Dolce Attesa (GB), who is also the dam of Group 2-placed black-type winner Pure Zen (Fr) (Zoffany {Ire}). Dolce Zel's second dam is the Saint Ballado black-type winner Lady Gin, and this is the immediate family of Grade l winners Musical Romance (Concorde's Tune), a champion sprinter; and the ill-fated Battle of Midway (Smart Strike).

Heaven Street

Trainer Christophe Clement got into the action in the next race, the Listed $75,000 Columbia S. at a mile on turf for 3-year-olds, winning with Heaven Street (Street Sense). Bred by Siena Farms, Heaven Street was a $275,000 RNA at Keeneland September. He's now campaigned by Siena and Asmussenequine.com and entered the Columbia a winner of two of six starts, both wins, however, on turf.

Heaven Street won the Columbia by a length, defeating horses trained by such as McGaughey, Rusty Arnold, Jonathan Thomas, Arnaud Delacour, and Brian Lynch, among others.

Street Sense stands for $75,000 at Darley and has been on a tear the last few years. His Azure Coast won the G3 UAE 2000 Guineas last month. One of Street Sense's best is Grade l winner Maxfield, who was produced from a Bernardini mare. Speaker's Corner, who won the Gll Gulfstream Park Mile S. the weekend before, is also from a Bernardini mare, and this larger cross of Street Sense/A.P. Indy is at work with Heaven Street, who is from a mare by Congrats, a son of A.P. Indy like Bernardini.

Heaven Street's dam Heavenly View is a half-sister to four black-type winners, including Mr Freeze (To Honor and Serve), a millionaire Grade ll winner who was also second in the Gl Pegasus World Cup, and she's also a half-sister to the Bernardini mare Zayanna–dam of Grade l winner Wicked Whisper (Liam's Map) and Grade ll winner and Grade l-placed Point of Honor (Curlin). This is a strong and productive black-type family and it's not surprising that Heaven Street was offered for sale on day one at Keeneland.

Classic Causeway

The Brian Lynch-trained Classic Causeway (Giant's Causeway) won the $350,000 Gll Tampa Bay Derby at a mile and a sixteenth as the favorite, duplicating his effort from last month's Glll Sam F. Davis at the same distance at Tampa Bay. In both races, Classic Causeway, a homebred for Kentucky West Racing and Clarke Cooper, broke like a shot and won wire-to-wire, and he's done everything that's been asked of him but nevertheless gets the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. He now sports a record of three wins from five starts, but the 84 Beyer Speed Figure that he earned in the Tampa Bay Derby–he'd run an 88 in the Sam F. Davis–has led to speculation that he may not be good enough to win the Gl Kentucky Derby.

Part of this comes from the competition he's beaten. Classic Causeway defeated 38-1 shot Grantham (Declaration of War) by 2 1/2 lengths in the Tampa Bay Derby, but Grantham's previous high Beyer was a 71, though he'd finished fourth in the Glll Withers with a 68 Beyer. Shipsational (Midshipman), a New York-bred, was third in the race and had run an 83 in the Sam F. Davis when second to Classic Causeway.

Perhaps more telling was the performance of the Graham Motion-trained Belgrade (Hard Spun) in seventh, beaten about six-plus lengths by Classic Causeway. Belgrade had debuted in a six-furlong maiden special restricted to horses sold at auction for $45,000 or less at Fair Grounds in December and won by six lengths with a 79 Beyer, and off that race he'd been sold for an astonishing $700,000 at Keeneland January. The runner-up in that Fair Grounds race, Tee Burns (Klimt), finished eighth of nine in a $50,000 maiden claimer at Fair Grounds last month at 10-1.

Belgrade reappeared at Tampa last month for Motion to win a seven-furlong optional claimer by a head from a local horse with a 72 Beyer, and he probably ran an even better race in the Tampa Bay Derby, suggesting that Classic Causeway's figure is probably legitimate.

Speed figures aside, Classic Causeway is one of three winners from Giant's Causeway's last crop of three foals. One of the others is Giant Game, who was third in the Gl Breeders' Cup Juvenile but eighth in the Tampa Bay Derby, and the other is Monaadah, who won his debut at Meydan two weeks ago.

Giant's Causeway, who died in 2018, has sired 195 black-type winners, many of them from mares with some of the best pedigrees in the world. That's not the case with Classic Causeway, whose stakes-winning Thunder Gulch dam Private World was the only black-type winner under the first three dams of the pedigree until Classic Causeway arrived.

Private World won two stakes races at two, the Listed Anoakia S. at Oak Tree at six furlongs and the Moccasin S. at Hollywood Park at seven furlongs. She either led or prompted the pace in both races and her son obviously gets some of his speedy tendencies from her.

Giant's Causeway, however, can provide the stamina required for Classic Causeway to keep progressing up the distance ladder, and so far, all Classic Causeway does is win, which is hard not to like.

Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.

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