In the first 13 editions of the Tampa Bay Derby, no jockey, trainer or owner had won Tampa Bay Downs' richest race more than once. Jerry Bailey saw to it Sunday that the record remained intact.
Bailey, the 1996 Eclipse Award-winning jockey, showed 6,481 fans at the track plus many at live and simulcasting facilities why he won racing's most prestigious honor for riders.
Wearing owner Allen Paulson's red, white and blue colors _ made famous when Cigar was thrilling the racing world with his 16-race winning streak _ Bailey zigged and zagged his way to a half-length victory aboard Zede. But it wasn't easy, as Bailey and his mount had to run down 47-1 shot Brisco Jack in the final yards of the 1 1/16 mile race.
It was another 3\ lengths back to Favorable Regard, who ran a good race at 20-1 odds under Kevin Whitley despite being saddled with unfavorable No. 12 post. Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Wilt the Tilt was fourth at 9-1.
As the even-money favorite, Zede paid $4.20, $3.20 and $2.80. But with the long shots finishing 2-3-4, it resulted in a trifecta payoff of $1,425.40 and a superfecta of $13,328.20.
Jose Santos, aboard Kay Hale's 7-1 What a Claim, had his horse break down late in the race and it was reported later that the horse had to be put down.
Bill Mott, Zede's Eclipse Award-winning trainer, assigned assistant trainer Ralph Nicks to saddle Zede, who was competing in his first stakes race after finishing second twice and first once in three allowance races at Gulfstream Park.
"We have a couple of options," Nicks said when asked what's next for Zede. "The Flamingo (at Hialeah) is coming up in a couple of weeks, but that's probably a little quick. The timing of the Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn Park, April 12) would be good, depending how it comes up."
Although the nomination for Sunday's race was made well in advance, it was only a week ago that Mott made the decision to try for the Kentucky Derby by way of Tampa. "You try to cover all your nominations," said Nicks, who thought about the Mott stable and its lack of success in Tampa, despite its great success elsewhere.
"We finished second in this race last year with El Amante and he went on to finish second in the Flamingo and win the Illinois Derby," Nicks said.
Mott usually has several 3-year-olds pointing toward Kentucky, but Zede has been the one they thought had the best chance. "This was the horse," Nicks said. "We were kind of disgruntled because we were hoping to be a little further ahead with him now. But maybe it's turning out to be the right time."
Bailey took Zede away from the rail and put the colt by Strawberry Road into fourth place as Brisco Jack, 132-1 Odyssee and Favorable Regard went out for the lead. As the three continued to battle down the backstretch, Bailey took off the rail, and was poised to strike in mid-track.
"Jerry watched the races all day," Nicks said, "and he looked for something like that," referring to the rider's decision to come off what is usually a golden rail.
"This horse is headstrong," Bailey said, "and he's a speed horse. He never really relaxes too well and I was hoping he could today to be more effective. I watched the early races _ and I have a couple of scouts around here and they agreed _ that's why I went out into the four path."
He took Zede to the outside around Brisco Jack and Favorable Regard on the turn, and it took everything Bailey and his colt could muster to pass Brisco Jack nearing the wire.
"These local horses are always tough," Nicks said. He was right. The five finishers behind Zede were all Tampa regulars.
The 8-5 second choice in the race, stakes-winner Stormy Cloud, with Shane Sellers, never fired and finished eighth.
Zede earned $90,000 for his third career victory and pushed his total to $140,381.
The Bailey-Sellers-Santos invasion didn't disappoint the customers in the $100,000 Florida Oaks. Sellers, aboard 5-2 Anklet, outpaced Bailey, with 5-2 Global Star, by a length in the stretch run to take home the $60,000 prize in the Grade III race. Santos, with 2-1 favorite Screamer, finished third, another 4\ lengths behind.
It was the third straight victory for Anklet and second in a row in a stakes, and she's being primed for better things, possibly the rich Kentucky Oaks the day before the Kentucky Derby. "We have to make another step forward, but that's certainly a race we'll look at," trainer Elliott Walden said. "We have to take it one step at a time."
As for the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, which is expected to draw sensational Florida-bred filly Glitter Woman, Walden said: "I don't want any part of that filly! If we have to face her, let it be in the Oaks."
Anklet was clocked in 1:45, one-fifth of a second behind Zede's 1:44 4/5. The winner's check raised her earnings to $123,057.
EVERGLADES STAKES: Trample caught long shot Willing in the final three strides to win by half a length in the $75,000 feature race at Hialeah in Miami.
Trample, with Pat Day aboard, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 4/5 and paid $8, $5.20 and $3.60.
Willing, which went off at 26-1, forged into the lead at the eighth pole, but was worn down in the final strides, and paid $17 and $7.20.
Keep It Strait rallied to finish third in the field of 11 and paid $7.60 in a coupled entry with Pleasure Diver.
Unite's Big Red, the 7-5 favorite, faded to fifth after setting the pace to midstretch.
_ Information from the Associated Press ewas used in this report.