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By BERNIE DICKMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 26, 2001
More 3-year-olds (78) have been nominated to the Tampa Bay Derby than ever, including many from the leading stables in North America. Now, it's up to racing secretary Bobby Clark to get the big guns to town.
The $200,000 test at a mile and a sixteenth will be run March 18, along with the $150,000 Grade III Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, which drew 38 nominations. If Clark can lure one or more of the colts who have been making headlines at Calder and Gulfstream the past few months, the Derby will be as successful as it has been for the past decade.
Among the nominees are Monarchos and Hero's Tribute, from the barn of owner John Oxley and trainer John T. Ward Jr. Monarchos, a $170,000 purchase, has won his past two starts impressively at Gulfstream, but he may be headed for the Florida Derby at Gulfstream. Hero's Tribute won the allowance race after Gulfstream's Fountain of Youth last weekend in which highly regarded A P Valentine, the 2000 Champagne winner, finished third. But Oxley and Ward may be more interested in the Louisiana Derby for Hero's Tribute's next start.
Other top trainers who have nominated for Tampa's premier race are Todd Pletcher, Neil Howard, Elliott Walden, Nick Zito, Linda Rice, Mark Hennig, H. James Bond, Niall O'Callaghan and Bill Mott. Rice's father, Clyde, and her brothers are longtime horsemen with farms in Ocala, and she has entered City Zip, who finished third in the Fountain of Youth.
Zito, who trains for Rick Pitino, among others, has nominated Paducah, owned by Nelson Bunker Hunt, noted horseman and brother of Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. Paducah broke his maiden in wire-to-wire fashion in the race preceding the Fountain of Youth.
Burning Roma, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, is training at Tampa Bay Downs, and owner Harold Queen says he'll make his next start in the Sam F. Davis Stakes before the Tampa Bay Derby. Among the local stars, the one who will receive the most attention is One Special Judge, who is 2-for-2 at the current meeting. With Louisiana jockey Sidney Lejeune, One Special Judge captured the Inaugural stakes on opening day, then won the $50,000 Pasco Stakes in mid-January.
Among the fillies nominated for the Oaks are Platinum Tiara and She's A Devil Due, the 2-3 finishers in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in November. Platinum Tiara is owned by M375 Thoroughbreds, nom de course of former major-league reliever Rob Murphy.
Fillies on the grounds who have been nominated for the Oaks include Frozen Dinner, Chinsegut, Bigcuz and Lite Medley, the 2-3-4-5 finishers in Saturday's $50,000 Suncoast Stakes. Suncoast winner Classy Place has not been nominated but can be with a supplementary fee of $5,000 by March 16.
DUEL SHOT DOWN: There will be no Florida Derby showdown between Triple Crown contenders owned by Pitino and Bobby Hurley.
Zito, who trains the Pitino-owned A P Valentine, said their colt will skip the Derby on March 10 at Gulfstream and aim for any of several other preps leading to the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
"You've just got to put egos on ice," Zito said.
A P Valentine was expected to run in the Florida Derby against Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Songandaprayer, owned by Hurley. The former Duke basketball star helped the Blue Devils to a memorable overtime victory over a Kentucky team coached by Pitino in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.
A P Valentine made his 3-year-old debut this month at a 7-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream. Zito decided his colt won't be ready for the $1-million Florida Derby.
"We're behind with him," Zito said. "It would be suicide putting him in there."
Sunday, Latour upset odds-on favorite Gold Mover in the Grade II $100,000 Davona Dale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
DERBY LANE: D's Jasmine was the only one among seven Derby Lane greyhounds to score win points after two qualifying rounds at Hollywood Greyhound Park for the $75,000 stakes. Dominator ran second to Jasmine, with Aimin By Design finishing last. Lady Dodge ran a close fifth to bet favorite Sugarnooche. BD's Phillip ran a hard third in his heat against favorite Algoa Boss. Craigie Glen and Cody Lambert finished out of the money. Entries who can't benefit mathematically from the next round will be eliminated today. Greyhounds will compete again Wednesday and Saturday. The top eight will compete for the stakes purse March 9. ... The Matinee Idol Stakes is Saturday. The season's fastest sprinter, Stan's Boy Flyer, is in Wednesday's semifinals. He won his last race by 11 lengths. He is 6-for-6 with five wins. Sprint Classic winner Craigie Whistler seeks his third straight win, as does Courageous Nicky. Another strong candidate is Share the Wealth, 8-for-8 with four wins. ... Gilley's Dancing Greyhounds is scheduled to perform 6:30-7 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. ... Greyhound Pets of America will host its annual spring picnic for adopted greyhounds on Sunday at Philippe Park in Safety Harbor. Call (727) 595-7852.
- Information from Vera Filipelli and Times wires was used in this report.