Pletcher Circles Blue Grass For Tapit Trice, Casse Considering Blue Grass Or Wood For Classic Car Wash - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Pletcher Circles Blue Grass For Tapit Trice, Casse Considering Blue Grass Or Wood For Classic Car Wash

Tapit Trice and Luis Saez win the G3 Tampa Bay Derby

Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G3) winner Tapit Trice earned his way into the Kentucky Derby (G1) on Saturday with the type of stretch run rarely seen at any level of Thoroughbred racing.

Hall of Fame member Mark Casse, the trainer of runner-up Classic Car Wash, was among those believing they had witnessed something special.

“We moved up inside of him and went past him (about halfway through the race), and it looked like he was backing up,” said Casse, who was seeking his third Tampa Bay Derby victory. “You're always keeping an eye on the favorite, and I thought he (Tapit Trice) was not going anywhere.

“We had a wide trip too, but the winner overcame a lot. I'm not saying he's a great horse yet, but I've always said the difference between the good ones and the great ones is the good ones win when everything goes right and the great ones win despite things going against them. That horse, to me, was very impressive.”

After barreling past Classic Legacy, who finished a good third, Tapit Trice gobbled up the ground between himself and Classic Car Wash, dashing the upset hopes of Casse and jockey Emisael Jaramillo by two lengths.

Expecting the same kind of “last-to-first” rally in a 20-horse field, as is likely on May 6 in the Kentucky Derby, might be overly optimistic. Tapit Trice's time of 1:43.37 on a fast track was far from spectacular, although it looked a lot better considering how much ground he lost on the far turn after Luis Saez decided to keep him outside and in the clear.

But rather than debate Kentucky Derby scenarios and strategy in mid-March, the connections of Tapit Trice, as well as many in a Tampa Bay Downs crowd of 6,023, preferred to savor the quality of the effort put forth by the winner and Saez to reward another Hall of Fame conditioner, Todd Pletcher, with his record sixth Tampa Bay Derby triumph.

The victory was worth 50 points in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” standings, moving Tapit Trice into sixth place.

Pletcher, not known for hyperbole, sounded excited about his colt's potential to move forward from Saturday. Tapit Trice likely will have one more start before the Kentucky Derby, with the Toyota Blue Grass (G1) on April 8 at Keeneland the likely locale.

“Before this race, we talked about taking a look at the Blue Grass because the timing works well,” Pletcher told Turf writer Lynne Snierson by telephone. “He's a horse that I think still needs a little more racing experience to completely put everything together.”

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby was only the fourth of Tapit Trice's career and his first in stakes competition. It's worth noting that Pletcher's two Kentucky Derby winners, Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017), competed at Tampa Bay Downs before the Run for the Roses, with Super Saver finishing third in the Tampa Bay Derby in his fifth start and Always Dreaming winning a maiden special weight in January of 2017 in his third start.

“He (Tapit Trice) certainly seems like the farther he goes, the stronger he gets,” Pletcher said. “He's got a big, long stride, and once he got in the clear down the lane he really extended himself and I loved the way he finished up.”

Casse, for now, believes Pletcher's colt Forte is ahead of the pack in the lead-up to Louisville. The FanDuel Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and 2-year-old Eclipse Award champion male began his sophomore campaign on March 4 at Gulfstream with a 4 ½-length victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) under Irad Ortiz Jr.

As for Classic Car Wash, who finished third in the  Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) four weeks ago at Tampa Bay, “He has to improve to play with the big boys. But he gets another try. I was proud of him,” added Casse, saying the Blue Grass or the Wood Memorial Stakes on April 8 at Aqueduct are under consideration.

Casse is the trainer of 3-year-old filly Wonder Wheel, who finished second here to Dreaming of Snow in the Feb. 11 Suncoast Stakes. Wonder Wheel won the NetJets Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) last fall en route to earning an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly.

Casse has her on track for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 5 at Churchill Downs. First is the Ashland Stakes on April 7 at Keeneland. Wonder Wheel is currently at the trainer's Casse Training Center in Ocala, where she breezed five furlongs Friday in 1:00.80.

“I thought her race (in the Suncoast) was pretty good, and she just needs to move a little forward,” Casse said.

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