OLDSMAR — It will pay to have a Florida horse this afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs.
The sixth edition of Florida Cup Day, which focuses on state-breds, is one of the meet's top events with $623,400 in purses on the 12-race card, highlighted by six $85,000 stakes restricted to horses bred in Florida. Of 114 total entries, 85 are from the state.
"We've got some very competitive fields," stakes coordinator Duby Christo said. "We sent fliers to farms in Ocala, and to Gulfstream and Calder racetracks. The horsemen really stepped up."
The stakes begin in Race 4 (1:53 p.m.) with the Sophomore Turf. The remaining stakes are Races 6-10.
Stakes and morning-line favorites: Sophomore Turf (El Sultry Sun, 5-2 odds), Turf Classic (Silver Tree, 2-1); Sophomore Fillies (Unfolding Wish, 7-2), Turf Distaff (Bayou's Lassie, 5-2), Sophomore (Repenting, 2-1) and Sprint (Lookinforthesecret, 9-5). Stakes vary in distance from 6 furlongs to 11/8 miles on the dirt and turf.
Silver Tree, a multiple gradedstakes winner trained by William Mott, will be going for his second Turf Classic win in three years for owner Peter Vegso. He has 12 victories and lifetime earnings of $1,514,649.
Bayou's Lassie, conditioned by Christophe Clement for owner Jacks or Better Farm, is another multiple graded-stakes winner. Local favorite Lookinforthesecret will be making his final start of the meet for leading trainer Jamie Ness and owner Balkrisna Sukharan. He is unbeaten at the Downs with five wins, including three stakes.
GREYHOUNDS: Derby Lane kennel operator and trainer Mick D'Arcy said he doesn't care which dog wins tonight's $100,000 Distance Classic (Race 10, 10:10 p.m.) at the St. Petersburg track.
"Just as long as it is from the D'Arcy Kennel," he said.
That is good news for daughter Catherine D'Arcy. She owns qualifying points leader Greys Touch Gold, a strong closer who will probably have to chase down her dad's speedy Castle Princess to win the $32,000 first-place prize.
The D'Arcy dogs dominated four qualifying rounds in the track's richest event, each winning three times. None of the other finalists won more than once.
The remainder of the field: Kay Buffalo Bill and Hallo Arouser of Filipelli & O'Donnell Kennel, Designer Angel and Greys Blak Smith of Lester Raines, defending champion Flyin Bridgeport of McAllister and Ww Waffle Crisp of Wayne Ward.
The elder D'Arcy is going for his fourth Distance Classic title, but first with his own kennel. He hasn't won the 660-yard race since 2000, when Greys Free Style — Castle Princess's dam — gave D'Arcy his last victory as a trainer with former Greymeadow Kennel. That year, D'Arcy also won the Sprint Classic with Greys Starquest.
D'Arcy can duplicate the Derby Lane double after Kinloch Brae — Castle Princess's brother — won the Sprint Classic on March 1.
Castle Princess is named after an Irish racehorse owned by Frances D'Arcy — Mick's wife — and her late brother, Tom Vaughan.
"On account of her name and the family connections, (winning) would be very, very special," Mick said.
Catherine has never won a stakes with her own greyhound.
"Greys Touch Gold means the world to me," she said. "But I know how much Princess means to my dad. If they're together near the finish line, it would be an interesting situation."
Neither greyhound owns a stakes win.
"If they're close in the stretch, I wouldn't even know which was which because one eye will be on one, and one eye will be on the other," Mick said. "It is irrelevant to me which one wins. Really."