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Tampa Bay Derby

As War Pass fades, Big Truck pounces in Tampa Bay Derby

OLDSMAR — Everyone knew where War Pass was.

Hundreds of fans, armed with cameras, took pictures of the prohibitive 1-20 favorite as he paraded around the paddock and onto the main track Saturday afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs. That was the last time anyone could find War Pass in the Grade III $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby.

In the biggest upset of Festival Day's signature race, War Pass finished last — 22 lengths behind — as Big Truck defeated Atoned by a neck in front of a record crowd of 12,746.

It was a big win for Big Truck, runnerup in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. The $180,000 first-place check probably ensures the 3-year-old Hook and Ladder bay colt enough graded earnings for a spot in the Kentucky Derby May 3 for owner Eric Fein.

"We've got the Derby in mind and I guess he made enough money today to get there — I'm not sure yet," trainer Barclay Tagg said. "But we'll just have to wait and see."

Tagg, whose Funny Cide won the 2003 Kentucky Derby, said he was realistic in his instructions to rider Eibar Coa.

"I told him to ride for second," Tagg said. "If something happens to War Pass and you ride for second, we'll win the race. (Coa) felt the same way. To tell you the truth, I couldn't find (War Pass), so I stopped looking. I think he had the wrong colors on."

War Pass never showed his speed for trainer Nick Zito. He was bumped twice: at the break and rounding the first turn. Cornelio Velasquez hustled him into third entering the stretch, but his tank was empty.

"(Velasquez) told Nick he was fighting him," owner Robert LaPenta said. "He just wasn't himself. He's had some fever this week, but we thought he'd be okay. Obviously, it wasn't his day.

"It's disappointing. He's a great horse. & He just didn't break well."

At the break, War Pass was pinched by Gentleman James and Make Me Zach. Gentleman James gave another nudge on the first turn. It was the first time War Pass trailed after winning his first five starts by 22 lengths.

Gentleman James set the pace in the seven-horse field with fractions of 23.73 and 47.44 seconds, but the 84-1 shot succumbed to the closers and finished sixth. Big Truck came from sixth after 6 furlongs and overcame Atoned's 1½-length advantage in the stretch to win in 1:44.25 for 11/16 miles. Big Truck paid $16.40, $5.80 and $25.20. Atoned returned $6.60 and $27.80. Dynamic Wayne, trained by Downs conditioner Dale Bennett, was 4½ lengths farther behind in third and paid $76.40.

As the $0.05 favorite, War Pass was the shortest price loser in the 28-year-old event. Atoned's finish was the third straight second-place showing in the Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled Any Given Saturday (2007) and Bluegrass Cat (2006).

It was the first graded stakes victory for Big Truck, a New York-bred purchased for $90,000 in 2007. He won the $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard Stakes Sept. 23 at Belmont. His sire was a multiple-graded stakes winner, including the Grade II Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Sprint in 2001.

As War Pass fades, Big Truck pounces in Tampa Bay Derby 03/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 2:56pm]

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