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Road to Kentucky Derby runs through Oldsmar and Tampa Bay Downs

Nowhere to Hide, left, the last horse in the Derby field capped at 20, gives Tampa Bay Downs five starters, joining Musket Man, General Quarters, Atomic Rain and Join in the Dance.

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Nowhere to Hide, left, the last horse in the Derby field capped at 20, gives Tampa Bay Downs five starters, joining Musket Man, General Quarters, Atomic Rain and Join in the Dance.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Tampa Bay Downs will set a record Saturday, with five Derby starters — 25 percent of the 20-horse field.

Nowhere to Hide became the final entry on Wednesday when Rebel Stakes long-shot winner Win Willy was the 11th Derby scratch after X-rays revealed a possible crack in his left front ankle. The fourth-place finisher in the Tampa Bay Derby got in with $55,500 in graded earnings.

"I guess if the No. 20 spot is left open by the gods, you ought to at least enter," trainer Nick Zito said.

Nowhere to Hide joins Tampa Bay Derby winner Musket Man, Sam F. Davis winner General Quarters, Atomic Rain (seventh in Sam F. Davis) and Join in the Dance (second in Tampa Bay Derby). Join in the Dance won the "pill pull" and selected the No. 9 post, the jersey number worn by Orlando Magic forward Rashard Lewis, a co-owner.

Tampa Bay Downs' high for Kentucky Derby starters was four in 2006. Eighteen Oldsmar graduates have advanced to Churchill Downs in the past six years. The last one to win the Derby was Street Sense, in 2007, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby.

GQ CONNECTIONS: General Quarters owner-trainer Thomas McCarthy, 75, a former Louisville educator, owns an 11-acre farm in Louisville. Television journalist Diane Sawyer and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson were students at Seneca High School, where McCarthy was a teacher.

WEATHER: There is a 30 percent chance of rain Saturday with a high near 71. The main track was muddy for Wednesday's morning workouts after rain Tuesday night.

the girls: Rachel Alexandra is the 3-5 morning-line favorite and will break from post 6 for the Grade I $500,000 Kentucky Oaks on Friday. The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro has four straight wins dating to November and is coming off a 8¾-length romp in the Grade II Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. "I think she's the strongest favorite since Winning Colors' year if she had raced in the Oaks," said D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time Oaks winner who saddles a trio of long shots: Tweeter (30-1), Be Fair (15-1), and Stone Legacy (30-1). The second choice on the morning line at 5-2 is Justwhistledixie, winner of the Grade II Davona Dale and Grade II Bonnie Miss Stakes.

CONFIDENT: Michael Iavarone, president of IEAH Stables, which owns part of I Want Revenge, said he's even more confident than he was in 2008 when he won with Big Brown: "I've been saying all along, I think we're going into this race with a better horse for this race. Last year, with Big Brown, there were more questions, but this horse has seen more than Big Brown had seen at this point. I'm not saying he's a better horse, but he's a better horse for this race." Iavarone likes having the favorite for the second year in a row and likes the No. 13 post. "The two speeds (Join in the Dance, post 9, and Regal Ransom, 10) are inside of us, so we won't have anybody cutting across in front of us." Co-owner David Lanzman and 19-year-old jockey Joe Talamo agreed. "We didn't want 1, 2 or 3 or 18, 19 or 20," Lanzman said. "It wasn't the post I would have picked, but we could have walked out of here miserable and we didn't." Said Talamo: "I think 13 will work out great, and I'm not superstitious."

smitten: Undefeated champion Zenyatta will make her seasonal debut in the Grade II Louisville Distaff on Friday. Though she will not be the headliner this weekend, Zenyatta's presence on the backstretch has not gone unnoticed by top Derby contender Friesan Fire, who is stabled seven stalls down from the mare. "He was on his toes before he knew Zenyatta was here," trainer Larry Jones said. "He is quite taken with her."

canadian pride: Mine That Bird, son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone and grandson of 1996 Derby winner Grindstone, started his career in Canada, winning three straight stakes to capture the Sovereign Award as Canada's top male 2-year-old. He was bought by Double Eagle Ranch and Bueno Suerte Equine in New Mexico, and they shipped him to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he finished 12th behind Midshipman. They regrouped over the winter and a couple of solid, if unspectacular, runs in New Mexico landed Mine That Bird, with $138,705 in graded earnings, in the Run for the Roses. Calvin Borel, who won the Derby two years ago aboard Street Sense, has the mount. The last 2-year-old Canadian champ to enter the Derby was Talkin Man, who finished 12th in 1995.

breeders' cup: The year-end world championships will go on as planned at Santa Anita in November despite the Arcadia, Calif., track's owner filing for bankruptcy. Breeders' Cup president Greg Avioli said that a Delaware bankruptcy court affirmed Oak Tree Racing Association's lease with Santa Anita through the end of the year. As a result, the Breeders' Cup will be staged as planned Nov. 6-7.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Road to Kentucky Derby runs through Oldsmar and Tampa Bay Downs 04/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 10:51pm]

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