Dynamic Sky laying in wait for favorite in quirky Tampa Bay Derby

awincze@herald-leader.comMarch 7, 2013 

  • Saturday's Derby preps

    San Felipe Stakes

    Post time: 6:35 p.m.

    Where: Santa Anita Park

    Distance: 11⁄16 miles

    Purse: $300,000 (Grade II)

    TV: HRTV, TVG

    Favorite: Morning-line odds not available

    PP Horse Jockey

    1 Carving R. Bejarano

    2 Flashback J. Leparoux

    3 Goldencents K. Krigger

    4 Kochees J. Valdivia Jr.

    5 Hear the Ghost C. Nakatani

    6 Tiz a Minister G. Gomez

    7 Salutos Amigos M. Garcia

    8 Omega Star J. Talamo

    Tampa Bay Derby

    Post time: 5:15 p.m.

    Where: Tampa Bay Downs

    Distance: 11⁄16 miles

    Purse: $350,000 (Grade II)

    TV: HRTV, TVG

    Favorite: Verrazano (4-5)

    PP Horse Jockey

    1 Eton Blue J. Bravo

    2 Purple Egg E. Trujillo

    3 Honorable Dillon C. Lanerie

    4 Java's War W. Martinez

    5 Dynamic Sky J. Rosario

    6 Verrazano J. Velazquez

    7 Offlee Fast J. Santana

    8 Park City E. Prado

    9 Falling Sky J. Espinoza

There are times in the competitive arena when home-field advantage can be a game-changer, providing the edge an underdog might need to bring about an upset.

With his 4-5 morning-line odds, Verrazano is set to swagger into Saturday's Grade II Tampa Bay Derby to try to justify the high esteem earned in winning his first two starts in devastating fashion.

If Verrazano is the freak some suggest, trainer Mark Casse concedes that the best effort from his entrant Dynamic Sky might not be enough to win the 11⁄16-mile Kentucky Derby prep.

But what Dynamic Sky has that his favored foe doesn't is proven form over a playing field notorious for throwing off big-named visitors.

"Verrazano's a tough horse. He's going to be a tough horse," Casse said. "But ... I think right now, he's coming to play at our house. We've already established our stuff there. He still has to do it."

The oft-proclaimed quirky surface at Tampa Bay Downs has claimed its share of favorites in recent years, from champion War Pass (seventh in the 2008 Tampa Bay Derby) to eventual Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (third in the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby).

Such history is the reason Casse takes heart in the fact Dynamic Sky already owns two starts over the surface, winning the Pasco Stakes there on Jan. 12 and finishing second by a neck to Falling Sky in the Grade III Sam F. Davis on Feb. 2.

If Verrazano's 161/4-length win going a mile at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 2 was everything it appeared, a little more sand in the surface isn't going to bring him back to his eight challengers Saturday. Until Casse sees Verrazano do it on a bigger stage, he's maintaining faith one of his own can bring him down.

"You know, he might be the next Secretariat," Casse said of Verrazano. "Any time people see horses that win with the authority he has along with how fast he is ... but we all know we've seen similar types.

"When you go around two turns it can change things sometimes. To me he looks like a really good miler, but who knows? I didn't think (two-time Horse of the Year) Curlin would go a mile and a quarter, but I was wrong. I've been wrong many times."

Casse can live with being wrong in his assessment for Saturday as long as he is ultimately on point with his long-term forecast for Dynamic Sky, the 4-1 second choice in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Like his graded stakes-winning stablemate Uncaptured — who is slated to make his season debut in the Grade III Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 23 — Dynamic Sky is owned by John Oxley. The son of Sky Mesa has been called a "true mile and a quarter horse" by Casse but showed he still has maturing to do when he ran erratically in the stretch of the Sam F. Davis, a move that prompted a jockey switch from Luis Contreras to Joel Rosario for Saturday.

"He had a tendency to lay in, and I thought Luis shouldn't have hit him right-handed, which then pushed him over a little bit," Casse said of the Sam F. Davis. "Once he got him corrected and headed in a straight direction, you saw he came running at the end."

The only time Dynamic Sky has been off the board in six career starts came when he was sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He owns wins over both dirt and synthetic surfaces. Even if he's not deemed the best horse Saturday, Casse has eight more weeks to build his and his stablemate's cases.

"I'll take every race I can win but you know, this is a step and we're trying to climb some stairs and the top is the Kentucky Derby," Casse said.

"Do I think we can beat Verrazano on Saturday? If Verrazano breaks clean and goes around there, probably not. I just hope to come running at him and build on that and then we'll try to meet in the first Saturday in May."


Saturday's Derby preps

San Felipe Stakes

Post time: 6:35 p.m.

Where: Santa Anita Park

Distance: 11⁄16 miles

Purse: $300,000 (Grade II)

TV: HRTV, TVG

Favorite: Morning-line odds not available

PP Horse Jockey

1 Carving R. Bejarano

2 Flashback J. Leparoux

3 Goldencents K. Krigger

4 Kochees J. Valdivia Jr.

5 Hear the Ghost C. Nakatani

6 Tiz a Minister G. Gomez

7 Salutos Amigos M. Garcia

8 Omega Star J. Talamo

Tampa Bay Derby

Post time: 5:15 p.m.

Where: Tampa Bay Downs

Distance: 11⁄16 miles

Purse: $350,000 (Grade II)

TV: HRTV, TVG

Favorite: Verrazano (4-5)

PP Horse Jockey

1 Eton Blue J. Bravo

2 Purple Egg E. Trujillo

3 Honorable Dillon C. Lanerie

4 Java's War W. Martinez

5 Dynamic Sky J. Rosario

6 Verrazano J. Velazquez

7 Offlee Fast J. Santana

8 Park City E. Prado

9 Falling Sky J. Espinoza

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Email: awincze@herald-leader.com. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service