TAMPA BAY DERBY | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16 MILES
Prospective rebounded from a second-place finish in last month's Sam F. Davis Stakes and put himself on the Kentucky Derby trail with a three-quarter-length victory over Golden Ticket in Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby.
Equipped with blinkers for the first time, Prospective made a big move into contention around the turn and then battled back in the stretch after being passed briefly by Golden Ticket, who finished second by three lengths over Cozzetti.
He was followed in the order of finish by 2-1 favorite Spring Hill Farm, Ravelo's Boy, Sam Davis winner Battle Hardened, Twin, Chief Energy, Fox Rules, Cajun Charlie, and Tell All You Know.
The win was the fourth in seven starts for Prospective, a son of Malibu Moon purchased for $250,000 by John Oxley at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling sale at Saratoga. He is trained by Mark Casse.
Under Luis Contreras, Prospective was sixth, about 7 1/2 lengths off the pace as Cajun Charlie, gunned to the lead from the outside post by Tracy Hebert, ran an opening quarter in 22.69 seconds.
Prospective advanced between horses with Fox Rules to his inside and the favored Spring Hill Farm to his outside and was within four lengths of Cajun Charlie after a half-mile in 47.08.
Prospective moved to the lead midway around the far turn and appeared as though he was going to open up and draw off to win easy. But Golden Ticket came to him along the rail under Manoel Cruz and even poked a head in front in midstretch. But Prospective battled back under right-handed encouragement from Contreras and edged away late.
Prospective covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.35 -- just .52 of a second off the track record of 1:42.83 established by Bold Start in the 2012 Challenger Stakes – and returned $8.20 as the third choice.
Casse said he knew Prospective wasn't going to draw away in the stretch -- "He doesn't draw way," he said -- but did believe his horse would fight when challenged in the stretch.
"He's a fighter, I didn't think he'd give it up," Casse said. "The only race I can't figure out why he didn't run better was the Breeders' Cup" Juvenile, in which Prospective finished last of 13 behind Hansen.
"That was the only time he didn't get into the race," Casse said. "He does what he has to do."
Prospective finished second in the Sam F. Davis after breaking from post 11 and racing eighth of 11 for the first half-mile. Casse said he put blinkers on the colt hoping it would get him involved earlier, and they did.
"I've had really good luck putting blinkers on horses," Casse said. "We only needed a length or two. It made a big difference because he was much closer today."
Contreras said the blinkers made Prospective "a bit more aggressive than I expected. He's a nice horse."
Casse said Prospective would definitely have another start before the May 5 Kentucky Derby and mentioned the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7 as one possibility.