After nearly 60-days Tabby Lane is back in a race. We were looking for a $16,000 claiming race or, near the end of the wait, even another $12,500 race just so she can get racing again. There is nothing more frustrating than having a fit horse that’s just reeled off two wins in a row get stuck waiting for a race to fill.
The golden ticket was finally punched for tomorrow (Saturday) in a $5,000 starter allowance going 7 furlongs over the main track. I would have liked to have had a bit more distance but at this point beggars cannot be choosers. We certainly would not have gone below 7 furlongs. Tabby is just not equipped to sprint and the setter of the morning line at Tampa Bay Downs apparently feels the same way – or at least feels that she needs more than 7 furlongs. Maybe he’s right, maybe not. Over the distance Tabby has a win, a second and two thirds over six career starts. Not bad. And in that winning effort she was only a point off her career best Beyer speed figure. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here is the field for the 10th race at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday.
Learn the Lingo (Hyland/Allen) – Second choice has had a couple of subpar efforts since reeling off two in a row to close out 2011 at $10,000 claiming. Was void of early speed in those efforts which is contrary to her better performances in her PPs where she was on or near the lead.
Bobbiesqueen (Navarro/Serpa) – Morning line favorite at a meager 8-5, this front runner came back from a short break at Calder at the of the year and made her first two efforts at Tampa winning ones in a conditioned $5,000 claimer and a non-winner of one allowance – both in convincing fashion. Emboldened, she traveled to Gulfstream for an optional claiming starter and, although she set the fractions, wilted late against the tougher competition but managed to hang on to take the show spot. She is a well-deserved favorite if she repeats her Tampa form and is left alone on the front end.
Markswayornoway (Camillo/Gonzalez) – Winner of a conditioned $5,000 claiming race last out, this one looks like she may be in a bit over her head in with the top of these, though hopefully she can push Bobbiesqueen early.
Black Magic Moon (Vacca/Vargas) – Her last race in 2011 was a doozy, smoking a field of low level claimers at Suffolk by over 10 lengths. After that race she was laid off until last month where she was pushed up to her former class levels ($16,000 - $20,000) and simply wasn’t competitive. Butler was on board for both her local efforts but will be on Tabby Lane today.
Standing Appeal (Camillo/Clemente) – Another Juan Camillo trainee, she also has been toiling at the lower rungs at Tampa following up a win at $5,000 with a ho-hum third at $8,000 last out.
Harlan’s Pepper (Nagle/Spieth) – A winner two back in a non-winners of 3 $8,000 claiming race, she graduated into a straight $8,000 claiming race where she was a respectable 3rd after having some trouble early. She has some good tactical speed and it should be interesting to see what Spieth does should Bobbiesqueen takes the engine all alone.
Holy Bling (Passley/Garcia) – She’s hit the board in her last five starts, winning three of them. She’s a solid sprinter who has done well stretching to 7 furlongs. She was unable to hold up against the likes of $12,500 fillies and mares last out when it counted and she faces several in here that are of at least that quality, including Tabby, though is rated a bit ahead in the morning line at 4-1.
As you may have been able to guess, I’m a bit miffed at the morning line. And I'm miffed for absolutely no valid reason. Objectively there are probably four horses that can win this race: Bobbiesqueen, Tabby Lane, Learn the Lingo and Holy Bling and the obvious choice of those four is Bobbiesqueen, the morning line favorite. The reality is that the morning line doesn’t matter a hoot. We’ve all heard it before, “The races aren’t run on paper.” My guess is that while Tabby is valued for her ability at Tampa and her recent winning streak, a seven furlong race is viewed more like a sprint and it’s no secret that Tabby needs a bit more room to unwind and get rolling. Pick us 4th if you will, but there is a way that these 7 furlongs could work to her advantage. You know, I think a shrink would say that I'm acting like someone is picking on my kid...
Bobbiesqueen is a frontrunner. Last race she set fractions at Tampa of :23.1 and :46.4 while cruising to victory at 6 ½ furlongs. Holy Bling, on the far outside, set fractions of :22.4 and :45.4 when she won at six furlongs last out. Standing Appeal, Markswayornoway and even Black Magic Moon and Learn the Lingo (in her better efforts) all prefer the front end. Markswayornoway even pushed along Holy Bling last time they faced each other before fading. Markswayornoway is a considerable distance from Holy Bling in the starting gate but is settled in right between Bobbiesqueen and Tabby Lane. The three hard chargers could leave the rail open early for Tabby to save some ground while letting the speed move out.
It is a 7 furlong race so Tabby can’t sit too far back and still expect to make a run, but there is no one I trust more in the irons judging the pace of the race than Dean Butler. His last ride on Tabby was picture perfect and as of late (he was last month's Jockey of the Month at Tampa) he has been simply fabulous.
My concerns are twofold: the unintended layoff taking the edge of her sharpness and Bobbiesqueen going wire to wire. If both of those concerns are mitigated, Tabby Lane will be right there at the end.