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Mar 09, 2012

Tampa Bay Derby favorite to be tested


Oldsmar, FL (Sports Network) - Saturday's $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby has drawn a field of 12 Kentucky Derby hopefuls with the 5-2 favorite making just his third career start in the 1 1/16-mile race. This will be the 32nd edition of what has become an important prep for the Run for the Roses.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out program favorite Spring Hill Farm for the colt's first start in a stakes. Javier Castellano comes north for his first ride on the undefeated three-year-old. The pair will break from post nine.

Owned by Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton, Spring Hill Farm broke his maiden in January at Gulfstream Park and the next month won an allowance in the slop at the track. The colt has earned $49,800 with his two wins.

Set to start from the favorite's immediate outside is 3-1 second choice Take Charge Indy. The chestnut colt will be ridden by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel who won this race aboard Street Sense in 2007 on the way to capturing the Run for the Roses.

Trained by Patrick Byrne, Take Charge Indy has one win in five starts, but posted a second last year in the Arlington-Washington Futurity along with a fourth in the Breeders Futurity at Keeneland and a fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Last time out in January the colt was second to El Padrino at Gulfstream in an allowance race.

Local stakes winner Battle Hardened returns to Tampa as the 9-2 third pick for Saturday. The chestnut colt will again have Julien Leparoux riding from post seven. The pair combined to win the Sam F.Davis Stakes last month at the track.

"When you're dealing with a horse of this caliber, and we feel like he's got enough ability and quality to get to the Kentucky Derby, and he's moving forward and improving all the time," said trainer Eddie Kenneally, "and looking at the Sam Davis race, it didn't look like it was coming up super tough, so we looked at it real close, and we thought we'd take a shot at it."

Owned by Michael B. Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier, Battle Hardened used the Davis as his maiden win after three previous starts. The chestnut colt has career earnings of $138,855.

"We know the Tampa Bay Derby is eight weeks before the Kentucky Derby," Kenneally stated. "We know that if he could win the Tampa Bay Derby that we would definitely, as you say, punched our ticket to go to the Derby. Then he's got to continue to do well in the eight weeks between there and the Kentucky Derby, and most likely run one more time between Tampa and the Kentucky Derby. So we've got to look at all of that, but certainly we've taken it all into consideration."

In post position order here is the field for the Derby: Prospective, Luis Contreras, 8-1; Golden Ticket, Manny Cruz, 10-1; Twin, Danny Centeno, 30-1; Chief Energy, Paco Lopez, 12-1; Tell All You Know, Leandro Goncalves, 15-1; Cozzetti, Jose Lezcano, 12-1; Battle Hardened, Julien Leparoux, 9-2; Ravelo's Boy, Jeffrey Sanchez, 12-1; Spring Hill Farm, Javier Castellano, 5-2; Take Charge Indy, Calvin Borel, 3-1; Fox Rules, Huber Villa-Gomez, 30-1 and Cajun Charlie, Tracy Hebert, 15-1.

Post-time for the Tampa Bay Derby is set for 5:30 p.m. (ET).

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