February 5 sees a great day of horse racing at the Tampa Bay Downs turf course. There’ll be betting opportunities galore at their inaugural Turf Champions Day.
The main highlights of the card will be two Grade III stakes. Horses that are at least four-year-olds will be hoping to win the $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes. Also being held is the $175,000 Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares aged four years and older. Both races will be run on turf over a mile-and half a furlong distance.
While rugby union fans in Europe will be watching the Six Nations, all eyes in Florida will be on the Tampa Bay Stakes on February 5. This was first run in 1985 but gamblers initially had to work out form on dirt. 1999 saw that change and since then it has been run on turf.
Last year saw the race won by the four-year-old Get Smokin’ rode by Junior Alvardo and trained by Thomas Bush. Both were having a win in the race for the first time. That was the first time since 2017 that betting on a four-year-old to win the Tampa Bay Stakes produced a winner. If placing bets, look for the best offers you can get online according to horse.bet.
Nominations for the 2022 Tampa Bay Stakes have now closed. One of the horses most fancied by bookmakers is the five-year-old Colonel Liam. Trained by Todd Pletcher who won this race in 2011 with Doubles Partner.
2021 was a successful year for Colonel Liam with three wins in a row and then a dead heat. After success in a listed race, Colonel Liam won the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes was won last January
A bet on this runner winning the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Stakes at Fairgrounds proved to be a great selection. Colonel Liam followed that run by taking part in the Grade 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Those who love betting on a thrilling race were in for a treat. Colonel Liam dead-heated with Domestic Blessings, who joined him on the line to deny an outright win. Those two races were run over nine furlongs but next time out, an extra furlong was tried and that didn’t work out. Back at a mile-and-half-a furlong, Colonel Liam has a good chance of success in February, having won over that distance in 2020.
Only five horses have won this race twice. The last to win it two years in a row was Lord John in 1992 and 1993. Get Smokin’ will bid to repeat his 2021 Tampa Bay Stakes success. This runner has only won two out of 11 races.
Apart from the win in this race last year, the only other time gamblers celebrated after backing Get Smokin’ was at Belmont Park in October 2020 when winning a Grade Two race.
Get Smokin’ had two runs after winning this race last year. Neither went that well and it’ll be interesting to see how well he goes in this attempt to win the Tampa Bay Stakes for a second successive year. One big change this year is that Get Smokin’ is now trained by Mark Casse, who won this race four years ago.
Another big contender is Cross Border who has had great success in Grade 2 races. Trained by Mike Maker, this runner is an eight-year-old. You must go back to 2009 and 2010 for the last two times a horse that age won the Tampa Bay Stakes.
Four races last year produced one Grade 2 success. The last two runs for this contender weren’t won but they were in Grade 1 races. Cross Border has won over this distance, but recent runs have been over 11 and 12 furlongs.
Those who bet on Eons last year will remember the fine run that saw a second-place finish in this race. The six-year-old will be back again this year, hoping to go one better.
Largent is also six years old and another runner for Todd Pletcher. Last January saw this runner just pipped by Colonel Liam in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes. That was over a furlong extra though.
That was the only race for Largent in 2021. Betting on a horse that hasn’t run for 350 days isn’t always a good idea. Largent made his return to the track as an odds-on favorite in a Grade 3 race at Gulfstream Park but finished fourth out of seven. With that run in the bag though, a stronger performance is expected in the Tampa Bay Stakes.
This looks like being a fascinating race and should produce an exciting finish. Will we see a repeat win for Get Smokin’ or will backing Largent or Colonel Liam be a profitable wager, only time will tell.