Watch Me Go, who was beaten five lengths by Brethren when the two last met in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, turned the tables on his rival to win Saturday's Grade 2 $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. After waiting in the starting gate following an incident in which Moonhanger reared up in the gate and unseated his jockey, the field broke from the gate as Moonhanger, Crimson Knight, and Brethren vied for the lead. Brethren won out and remained in the lead through most of the 1 1/16 mile race until challenged at the top of the stretch as the former $16,000 claimer, Crimson Knight, began to move. Watch Me Go, whose 12-1 morning line odds grew to nearly 44-1 at post time, was also making his move. The three battled briefly before longshots Crimson Knight and Watch Me Go pulled clear of Brethren and continued to fight one another into the finish. Watch Me Go and jockey Luis Garcia were able to pull out the win by a neck over jockey Ronald Allen, Jr. and his mount, Crimson Knight.
What's interesting about this race is how differently Brethren performed compared to his win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes last month. In that race, he stayed just off of the leader and closed strongly to win by four lengths. In the Tampa Bay Derby, he went straight to the lead and seemed to just wear himself out. It's hard to say if this race is an indicator of his ability or if his jockey, Ramon Dominguez, made an error in judgment by letting him take the lead so early.
The Tampa Bay Derby has historically produced horses that go on to finish within the money in the Kentucky Derby. Watch Me Go and Crimson Knight are not even nominated to the Triple Crown, so, at this point; they won't be in the Derby. That leaves Brethren and Beamer as the ones to watch out of this race. Beamer is trained by Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger and is definitely one to watch. He trained Street Sense to wins in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, 2007 Tampa Bay Derby, and 2007 Kentucky Derby. Carl Nafzger has a way of getting his horses to peak on cue and you can guarantee he's plotting Beamer's peak to be the first Saturday in May.
Up next on the Derby prep schedule is Oaklawn's Grade 2 Rebel Stakes which we'll preview Friday.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby