Last seen closing with a rush for third place in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Brody's Cause is ready for his 3-year-old debut — and a chance to stay on track for the Kentucky Derby.
"He's doing everything right," trainer Dale Romans said this week. "Hopefully he will come running Saturday, get past all of them and have a nice gallop-out, to Kentucky."
Brody's Cause tops a 10-horse field entered for the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby, a prep race for the May 7 Derby at Churchill Downs. Also entered are the first two finishers in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, Destin and Rafting.
On the West Coast, Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert sends out his leading Derby prospect Mor Spirt in Saturday's $400,000 San Felipe at Santa Anita, where the Robert B. Lewis winner faces a half-dozen tough foes, including San Vicente runner-up Exaggerator and undefeated Smokey Image.
Each race is worth a total of 85 Derby qualifying points. The breakdown is 50-20-10-5.
Mor Spirit is fifth on the list with 24 points, while Exaggerator has 16 points and Brody's Cause 14 points. Moyhamen, running next in the Florida Derby on April 9, is the leader with 70 points. The Derby field is limited to 20 starters. If more are entered, the field is determined by points accumulated in designated preps.
Romans, from Louisville, Kentucky, has carved out an interesting path to the Derby for Brody's Cause, who has been training in Florida the past few months.
Purchased for $450,000 by the Albaugh Family Stable, Brody's Cause opened his career at Ellis Park in Hendersonville, Kentucky, finishing eighth. He then won at Churchill Downs at 33-1 odds before winning the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. He was third behind Nyquist and Swipe in the BC Juvenile.
After the Tampa Bay Derby, it's back to Kentucky for a final prep in the Blue Grass on April 9 at Keeneland.
"We decided to go this route because of the timing (between races), and we've been staying the course," Romans said. "Tampa Bay Downs is a good racetrack, and we shipped him a little early because it's a little different than the places he's been training and I thought it would be good for him to get some miles over it before he runs."
Two Kentucky Derby winners have used the Tampa Bay Derby as a steppingstone — Street Sense in 2007 and Super Saver in 2010.
Brody's Cause's will be ridden by Corey Lanerie and leave from the No. 8 post. Romans' top 3-year-old last year was Keen Ice, who upset Baffert's Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers.
The field for the Tampa Bay Derby, from the rail out is Morning Fire, Rafting, Outwork, Economic Model, Star Hill, Riker, Destin, Brody's Cause, Tale of S'avall and Awesome Banner.
In Mor Spirit, Baffert hopes to be back for a shot at Derby win No. 5.
Hall of Famer Gary Stevens will be aboard Mor Spirt, who drew the No. 3 post. Kent Desormeaux has the call on Exaggerator for his brother, trainer Keith Desormeaux.
A California-bred, Smokey Image moves into stakes company for the first time after winning all six of his races. He beat fellow-statebreds by 81/2 lengths in the California Cup Derby on Jan. 30. He is trained by Carla Gaines and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.
The field for the San Felipe, from the rail out, is Uncle Lino, Danzing Candy, Mor Spirit, Cupid, I Will Score, Smokey Image and Exaggerator.