OLDSMAR, Fla. - The biggest day of the Tampa Bay Downs season is Saturday, with large fields expected for the card's five stakes races, which are worth a total of $925,000, making for the richest card in track history. The highlight of the annual Festival Day program is the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, a 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds that offers 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to its top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 basis.
Here's a look at the major players expected for the Tampa Bay Derby.
No Dozing (trainer Arnaud Delacour): After finishing second in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes, he began his 3-year-old season Feb. 11 with a dull sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, the key local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby. The Sam F. Davis was won in track-record time by early Kentucky Derby favorite McCraken, who will miss Saturday's race with a minor ankle injury.
No Dozing has breezed twice since the Sam F. Davis, a bullet four furlongs in 47.40 seconds Feb. 26 and five furlongs in 1:01.60 on Sunday. Delacour said No Dozing began Sunday's drill slowly due to another horse breezing just ahead of him and got his final furlong in 12.20 seconds.
"He came back happy, and I'm very encouraged by the way he's handling his training and behaving," Delacour told track publicity. "I wouldn't run him if I didn't think he will perform well, and the way he breezed last week was very good."
Beasley (trainer Mark Hennig): He was scratched out of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth last Saturday to run in this spot and ripped through a half-mile workout in a bullet 46.90 seconds at Gulfstream earlier that day. He has finished second in allowances at Gulfstream in his last two starts.
Tapwrit (Todd Pletcher): He finished a good second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in the Sam F. Davis after winning his maiden and the Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park in his prior two starts. Last Saturday, he breezed an easy four furlongs in 50.80 seconds at Palm Beach Downs. Pletcher has won the Tampa Bay Derby in three of the last four years, including in 2016 with Destin.
State of Honor (Mark Casse): He's placed in four of his five stakes tries, including a third in the Sam F. Davis and a second in the Mucho Macho Man in his two outings this year. Last Friday, he breezed half a mile in 47.75 seconds at Palm Meadows.
Wild Shot (Rusty Arnold): He was second to McCraken last fall in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and fourth in the Sam F. Davis.
Third Day (Pletcher): He's perfect in two starts after taking the Just One More Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 8. Last Saturday, he breezed four furlongs in 50.80 seconds at Palm Beach Downs.
Tale of Silence (Barclay Tagg): He's lost four straight starts and was sixth in the Remsen in his only stakes race, but he finished second in an allowance Feb. 12 at Gulfstream Park in his most recent start. Last Friday, he zipped a half-mile in 47.30 seconds at Palm Meadows.
Also on the Festival Day card are the Grade 2, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for older fillies and mares; the Grade 3, $200,000 Florida Oaks, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies; the $100,000 Challenger Stakes, for older horses at 1 1/16 miles on the main track; and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes, for 3-year-olds at a mile on turf.
The prospective field for the Hillsborough is led by Grade 2 stakes winner Isabella Sings, who wired the field in the key local prep, the Endeavour Stakes on Feb. 11, to earn the third Grade 3 stakes victory of her career. Trained by Pletcher, Isabella Sings almost scored a front-running victory in last year's Hillsborough but was reeled in late by Tepin, the best female turf runner in North America over the past two seasons.
Among the other likely starters are Grade 3 stakes winners Dickinson, Evidently, My Impression, and Family Meeting.
The Oaks contenders are topped by Daddys Lil Darling, who won the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes last year for trainer Ken McPeek, along with Grade 3 winners Rymska and La Coronel.
Adirondack King, who won last year's Challenger Stakes for trainer John Servis, will face a stern test in defending that title. His rivals are expected to include Grade 2 stakes winners Stanford and Blofeld, Grade 3 winner Ami's Flatter, and Idolo Porteno, a Group 1 winner in his native Argentina who placed in two Grade 3 races in the United States last year.
Tiz a Slam, the winner of the Cup and Saucer Stakes last fall at Woodbine for trainer Roger Attfield, is among the top contenders in the Columbia Stakes.
The track will be giving commemorative umbrellas to the first 7,500 fans through the gates Saturday with paid admission. The inside lining of the umbrellas feature colorful photographs of the 2016 Festival Day stakes winners.