Tampa Bay Derby 2023 & More Tampa Bay Downs Recaps

Tampa Bay Downs staged its marquee day of the year on Saturday, with Kentucky Derby prospect Tapit Trice snagging the headlines when making his stakes breakthrough in the G3 Tampa Bay Derby. Another to get off the mark at stakes level was Mission Of Joy, who stayed perfect on the Tampa Bay turf in the G3 Florida Oaks, while top turf mare Shantisara got back in the winning groove in the G2 Hillsborough and the popular Skippylongstocking made it look easy in the G3 Challenger.

Tampa Bay Derby

Tapit punches Derby’s ticket – G3, $400,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo

Better late than never. Tapit Trice was never going to win the Tampa Bay Derby until suddenly he did, swooping inside the final sixteenth to run down Classic Car Wash and Classic Legacy to take the feature at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, booking a spot in the gate at Churchill Downs with the 50 RTKD points on offer.

Tampa Bay Derby 2023 Race Video


Tapit Trice (6) wins the G3 Tampa Bay Derby #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Horses #Horse #FYP #Sports

♬ original sound – horseracingtote – horseracingtote

The 1-2 favorite, on his stakes debut, continued his habit of starting slowly and around the turn and came under a drive from Luis Saez. At the quarter pole, he couldn’t win, at the eighth pole he still had seven horses in front of him, but then the gray located overdrive and surged past his rivals to win going away by two lengths, making it look easy when it had appeared anything but.

Classic Car Wash, who earned 20 RTKD points, enough to push him into the top ten on the leaderboard, had a length and a quarter to spare over second-choice Classic Legacy.

“He’s got a big, long stride,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, winning his sixth Tampa Bay Derby. “The further he goes, the better he’ll get.”

Pletcher also trains Kentucky Derby favorite Forte, and Tapit Trice is now clear second-choice for the big race at +750 on the Jazz future book following the reported removal of Arabian Knight from the Derby trai. His final prep is likely to be the G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 8.

Tampa Bay Derby Payouts

1. Tapit Trice$3.00$2.40$2.20
2. Classic Car Wash$7.40$5.00
3. Classic Legacy$4.00

WINNING TIME: 1m 43.37s

Florida Oaks

Joy on a mission – G3, $200,000, 1m 1/16 turf, 3yo fillies

Turf and Tampa Bay Downs are home sweet home for Mission Of Joy, who extended her winning streak to three on her stakes debut in the Florida Oaks, winning a stretch duel with Alpha Bella by a neck.

Florida Oaks Race Video


Mission of Joy (1) wins the 2023 Florida Oaks #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Horses #Horse #FYP #Sports

♬ original sound – horseracingtote – horseracingtote

All her wins have come on the Tampa Bay lawn, and the 5-1 third-choice was always traveling sweetly behind the pace under Antonio Gallardo. Alpha Bella took a slight lead in the lane but Mission Of Joy was soon on top, and although the runner-up wouldn’t quit she was always coming off second-best. The longshot Juniper’s Moon was two and a half lengths back in third, while favorite Free Look was a long way back until rallying late for fourth.

“She really stepped up today,” said trainer Graham Motion. “She fought for it and showed a lot of heart – super impressive. I didn’t know she could be this kind of filly.”

Mission Of Joy is now three-for-four, with her only defeat coming on the Tapeta surface at Woodbine on her debut. There are no more Graded stakes scheduled for the rest of the Tampa Bay meet, so Mission Of Joy will have to spread her wings to maintain her upward trend.

Florida Oaks Payouts

1. Mission Of Joy$12.00$5.80$4.00
2. Alpha Bella$4.20$3.40
3. Juniper’s Moon$8.80

WINNING TIME: 1m 41.12s

Dubai World Cup Odds

Hillsborough Stakes

Shantisara so smooth – G2, $225,000, 1m 1f turf, 4yo+ females

She’s back. Shantisara snapped a losing run stretching back almost a year when running out a comfortable winner of the Hillsborough from Scotish Star and Surprisingly.

The even-money favorite, given a flawless ride by Irad Ortiz, followed Scotish Star all the way around the track, challenged off the home turn, and asserted inside the final sixteenth as the long-time leader began to run out of gas. The one-paced Surprisingly was a neck away in third; the time was less than a second outside the track record.

“If we can keep this horse healthy, I’m confident she can become one of the leaders of this division,” said trainer Chad Brown, signing for his sixth Hillsborough.

The victory made the ex-French Shantisara a millionaire and took her record to six-for-13, with the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in 2021 taking pride of place on her resume.

The G1 New York at Belmont Park on June 9 may well be the next big target for Shantisara, although such is the depth of talent among Brown’s distaff division that running plans are always open to change.

Hillsborough Stakes Payouts

1. Shantisara$4.00$2.80$2.10
2. Scotish Star$4.80$3.00
3. Surprisingly$2.80

WINNING TIME: 1m 47.14s

Challenger Stakes

Skippy bounces back – G3, $100,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 4yo+

With his task made somewhat easier by the late scratch of pace angle Classic Causeway, Skippylongstocking was sent away the 1-2 favorite for the Challenger and won like an odds-on shot should, coasting home from Tax and rank outsider Surly Furious.

This is Skippylongstocking’s level – his last seven starts read zero-for-four in G1s, including the Preakness and the Belmont, and three-for-three in G3s – and he was in his comfort zone throughout under Irad Ortiz.

They sat close to the pace-setting Trademark and then when Surly Furious made a break for home off the turn, Skippylongstocking ran that rival down with the minimum of fuss. He had three and quarter lengths in hand at the line, with Tax rallying past Surly Furious to take the ‘place’ slot by a head.

“He tries hard and he’s consistent,” said trainer Saffie Joseph, who may now aim the four-year-old at the G2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 22. “You never know, maybe one day he’ll get the Grade 1 win he deserves.”

Challenger Stakes Payouts

1. Skippylongstocking$3.00$2.40$2.10
2. Tax$4.40$3.20
3. Surly Furious$6.80

WINNING TIME: 1m 42.52s

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