The Jury: Bets and fades for March 11

March 10th, 2023

The TwinSpires jury of James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson offer their thoughts on the Tampa Bay Derby card, along with competitive races at Santa Anita and Oaklawn.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: Everyone at Tampa Bay Downs is aware of how poorly late runners have performed in dirt routes over the last six weeks, but I'm not afraid to go against the grain with #6 The Reds (12-1) in the Challenger (G3). A contested/hot pace is projected — jockeys want to be forward on horses with early speed, and five of the nine entrants in the Challenger do their best running on the front end — and The Reds will look to take advantage of a favorable set-up. He had no chance in his comeback last out, a one-turn mile event, and will appreciate the stretch back out to 1 1/8 miles. I liked his effort in a stakes-quality allowance at Churchill Downs two back, and The Reds will be running late with Edgard Zayas.

Vance Hanson: I doubt I'll get the 4-1 morning line on #10 Talk of the Nation in the Columbia S. at Tampa Bay Downs, but he's my selection to beat shorter-odds stakes veterans like Freedom Trail and Mo Stash in the one-mile grass test for three-year-olds. A son of Quality Road and multiple Grade 2 winner She's Not Here, Talk of the Nation couldn't have looked any better when taking his grass debut by four lengths at Tampa on Feb. 4, improving his overall record to 2-for-3. This is a tougher assignment, obviously, but he has plenty of upside for Shug McGaughey, who's sent plenty of live runners to the west coast of Florida from Payson this winter.

Ashley Anderson: #2 Shantisara (2-1) is the one to beat in the 1 1/8-mile Hillsborough (G2) on Saturday after rallying to finish second in the 1 1/16-mile Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G3). One of three runners for Chad Brown in the field, the Irish-bred is 2-for-2 at nine furlongs and has the late kick to excel on the stretch-out here. Her 98 Brisnet Speed rating last out is the highest last race speed rating among the field, and three back she clocked a 100 BRIS figure when finishing second to stablemate Regal Glory in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: #9 Ben Diesel (3-1) and #1 Barber Road (7-2) are the top two choices on the morning line for Saturday’s seventh race at Oaklawn Park, an entry-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles, and the short-priced runners are a combined 0-for-15 at Oaklawn. In fact, both horses haven’t won since 2021 — Ben Diesel has dropped 12 straight and Barber Road 10. I’ll try to beat them.

VH: #4 Unsung Melody (5-2) is the early favorite in the fourth race at Oaklawn Park, a six-furlong maiden for three-year-old fillies. She exits a second-place effort to Punchbowl, who came back to win an allowance last weekend. Third-placed Sacred Wish was another next-out winner, so the form of that Feb. 11 race is working out so far. However, my nagging suspicion is that Unsung Hero's surprise performance at 35-1 was enhanced to a degree by the fact she was lone speed over a muddy track. There are several other fillies here returning from that race, and perhaps things won't be so easy for Unsung Hero this time if the track is dryer. Certainly the price will not be as enticing.

AA: #2 Forbidden Kingdom (8-5) was named the morning line favorite in the seven-furlong San Carlos S. (G3) at Santa Anita, but at those odds, I'll be fading the American Pharoah four-year-old who has struggled in his last three at sprint distances. In the seven-furlong Malibu (G1) last out, Forbidden Kingdom led through the second call but lost command through the quarter pole and ultimately finished 4 1/4 lengths in second. Two back, the Richard Mandella pupil led through the stretch in a six-furlong optional claimer, then was beaten a half-length by today's race rival #5 Get Her Number (9-5). Based on the colt's recent performances, I'll look elsewhere in this field of six.

What else is worth noting?

JS: #6 Tapit Trice (8-5) is the one to beat in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), and #2 Classic Car Wash (8-1) is a horse I want on any vertical exotic wagers. Following a pair of easy wins on the front end, the lightly raced and untested gelding found himself out of his element when breaking 10th in the Sam Davis (G3). He rated in midpack before launching a good rally for third, outfinishing fourth-placer Classic Legacy, who faced similar circumstances and will be much shorter odds than Classic Car Wash in the Tampa Bay Derby. Classic Car Wash will benefit greatly from the experience and has been overlooked in the aftermath. If the Mark Casse trainee establishes decent early positioning Saturday, Classic Car Wash appears more than capable of challenging for another top three finish.

VH: #6 Navy Goat (6-1) is a filly I'll be using in exotics plans in the Florida Oaks (G3) at Tampa. The Arnaud Delacour trainee adds Lasix here and exits a third-place finish in the Ginger Brew S., a race in which she didn't exactly trip out well. Off a beat slow, she was short of room between rivals when attempting to launch a bid in upper stretch. By the time she got in the clear, others had gotten the jump on her. The Delacour/Daniel Centeno combo is obviously a potent one at this track, and the price should be fair.

AA: One of the top older dirt females, Clairiere, and 2022 Kentucky Oaks (G1) hero Secret Oath each make their seasonal debuts in the Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn on Saturday. As a four-year-old last year, Clairiere won the Ogden Phipps (G1) and Shuvee (G2), then lost to Malathaat in both the Personal Ensign (G1) and Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1). The Steve Asmussen pupil is the one to beat at 6-5 odds on the morning line, but I'm intrigued by another runner in the field, #5 Interstatedaydream (3-1) for Brad Cox. The four-year-old will return from a more than six-month layoff and put in a number of sharp workouts leading up to the Azeri.

Interstatedaydream failed as the favorite last out when finishing second in the one-mile and 40-yard Cathryn Sophia S., but two back she triumphed by 2 1/4 lengths at today's distance in the Indiana Oaks (G3). Hot jockey Florent Geroux will retain the mount, and with the right pace setup, Interstatedaydream can pull off a slight upset over late-running types Clairiere and Secret Oath.