Musket Man wins Tampa Bay Derby to become serious Kentucky Derby contender

Musket Man, with jockey Daniel Centeno, edges Join in the Dance to win the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. Owner Eric Fein also had the winning horse last year.

Tampa Bay Downs

Musket Man, with jockey Daniel Centeno, edges Join in the Dance to win the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. Owner Eric Fein also had the winning horse last year.

OLDSMAR — Eric Fein didn't bring a tape recorder to Tampa Bay Downs. He should have.

Fein simply had to hit the replay button after his Musket Man ran down another Todd Pletcher trainee to win the Grade III $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby on Saturday in front of 10,420 fans.

Musket Man, ridden by TBD top jockey Daniel Centeno, edged Join in the Dance by a neck, earning $180,000 to become a serious Kentucky Derby contender.

Last year, Big Truck won for Fein, who became the first owner in 29 years to win the Tampa Bay Derby twice. The Derek Ryan-trained colt also is owned by Vic Carlson. He paid $13.80 to win. "Amazing!'' Fein said. "I knew once (Musket Man) got into gear, he had a shot. He doesn't like to have other horses pass him."

Musket Man, third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 14 for his only loss in five starts, was eighth after 6 furlongs in the 10-horse field. But Centeno swung wide and picked off every horse.

The 3-year-old son of Yonaguska clocked the 11/16 miles in 1 minute, 43.67 seconds. It was the first graded stakes win for Musket Man and Centeno.

"I had to be a little aggressive because he's a lazy horse," Centeno said. "I wanted to ride behind the speed and make a move outside."

Supplemental entry Justdontcallmejeri was another 21/2 lengths behind in third. Sam F. Davis winner General Quarters was fifth, and 2-1 favorite Hello Broadway was seventh.

Said General Quarters owner-trainer Thomas McCarthy of his horse, "He got bottled up, had to go outside and inside, and just couldn't make it."

Join in the Dance, a 35-1 shot, led most of the way through fractions of 24.11, 48.34 and 1:12.45. But for the fourth straight year, a Pletcher entry was second.

On the undercard, favorite Don't Forget Gil ($4.40) registered her first graded win in stakes-record time, cruising to a four-length victory in the Grade III $200,000 Florida Oaks. She ran the 11/16 miles in 1:43.65. Ameribelle was second and Rock Candy third.

In the Grade III $175,000 Hillsborough Stakes, Backseat Rhythm ($4) defeated Elusive Lady, with Ballymore Lady third. Winning time on the 11/8-mile turf course was 1:51.43.

Centeno and leading trainer Jamie Ness combined to win the $75,000 Turf Dash with Castles in the Sky ($16.40), covering 5 furlongs in 55.75 seconds. Cooper County was second and Our Friend Harvey third.

Co-mingled handle for the 13-race card was $9,165,515.

Musket Man wins Tampa Bay Derby to become serious Kentucky Derby contender 03/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 14, 2009 10:49pm]

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