We had four graded stakes races at Tampa Bay this weekend, topped by a stellar performance by new Kentucky Derby shooter in HELIUM, the Mark Casse trainee.
The turf was firm and the dirt was fast. Our equine athletes and jockey enjoyed the best racing conditions throughout the card. Let's jump right in and catch you up on what you missed!
The $350K Tampa Bay Derby (G2) was won by HELIUM, ridden by Jose Ferrer, trained by Mark Casse, owned by D.J. Stable LLC — turning back HIDDEN STASH in the closing strides to secure the victory.
HELIUM wasn't the fastest out of the gate and found himself racing 5-wide toward the rear of the field, while BOCA BOY set fractions of 23.23 and 47.06. As they approach the turn for home, with three furlongs to go, HELIUM makes a giant move for the lead and gets it, despite racing 5-wide. He clears the field but then has to hold off HIDDEN STASH who commenced his own rally and came within a neck of the lead. HIDDEN STASH had been finishing on the wrong lead for most of his previous races, but this time he switched perfectly! However, he still could not pass HELIUM over the length of stretch and had to settle for second. MOONLIGHT STRIKE finished third. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth was 1:43.55.
HELIUM paid $32.80 to win, $12.80 to place, $9.00 to show. He is by IRONICUS out of THUNDERING EMILIA by THUNDER GULCH. He successfully transferred his form and fitness from Woodbine to Tampa Bay. He's now won 3-for-3 and pushed his earnings to $287,763.
HELIUM earns 50 points for his Road to the Kentucky Derby, which will move him to the fourth spot with 50 points, right above ESSENTIAL QUALITY with 40 points.
The Hillsborough Stakes (G2) was won by MICHELINE, ridden by Luis Saez, trained by Michael Stidham, owned by Godolphin — in a stampede finish, beating the field to wire.
MICHELINE broke slightly to her right, but recovered enough to be positioned up in third, with the top flight, as they made their first turn into the backstretch. The field ran an opening quarter in a pedestrian 24.23 and a half mile in 48.80. They raced unchanged as they got to the turn, but as they straightened away, it became anyone's race. They were bunched up; not even three four lengths separated the field. MICHELIN struck the front with less than a furlong to go, having to hold MORNING MOLLY to her inside at bay, and then NEW YORK GIRL and MISS TEHERAN came thundering down the center of the stretch with their run. MICHELIN finished the strongest, prevailing by three-quarters of a length. MORNING MOLLY got up for second, NEW YORK GIRL ran third. They stopped the clock in 1:47.19 for the one mile and one-eighth event over the turf.
MICHELINE paid $11.20 to win, $6.00 to place, and $5.00 to show. She is by BERNARDINI out of PANTY REID by INCLUDE. In 13 career starts, she's now won 5 times, placed 2 times, and shown 1 time. She pushes her earnings to $665,978 and makes her return off of a five-month layoff a successful one.
The $200K Florida Oaks (G3) was won by DOMAIN EXPERTISE, ridden by Antonio Gallardo, trained by Chad Brown, owned by Klaravich Tables, Inc. — getting up in the last jump to beat JOUSTER.
DOMAIN EXPERTISE broke well and was positioned to race fifth in mid pack while JOUSTER cleared the lead and set fractions of 22.98 and 47.60. As they turned for home, JOUSTER widened her lead to almost four lengths, but DOMAIN EXPERTISE was set down for the drive and in the last jumps, she tagged JOUSTER at the wire to win. OYSTER BOX got up for third. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth on the turf was 1:41.12.
DOMAIN EXPERTISE paid $12.80 to win, $4.40 to place, and $3.00 to show. She is by KITTEN's JOY out of TERODA by LIME HOUSE. She's now got 2 wins from 5 starts with earnings pushed over $125,700. Remains perfect at Tampa Bay.
The $100K Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes (G3) was won by Last Judgement, ridden by Daniel Centano, trained by Michael Maker, owned by Michael Dubb, Steve Hornstock, Bethlehem Stables and Nice Guys Stables — in gate to wire fashion.
LAST JUDGEMENT broke evenly with the field, but was hustled to the front where he set opening fractions of 23.29 and 47.41. He was allowed to lead the way, free of pressure, all the way through the back stretch and into the turn for home. Full of run, he comes wide into the stretch and opens up to win by comfortable two lengths. MODERNIST improved to grab second, WAR STOPPER ran third. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth over the dirt was 1:41.98.
LAST JUDGEMENT paid $4.80 to win, $3.00 to place, and $2.10 to show. He is by CONGRATS out of FANTASY FOREST by FORESTRY. He's now won 7 races from 16 starts, pushed his earnings to $333,365, and makes his first start at Tampa Bay a winning one.