Trophy Chaser wins stretch duel in Challenger Stakes

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Trophy Chaser continued in peak form, getting the best of the comebacking King for a Day in a thrilling renewal of the Grade 3, $100,000 Challenger Stakes, part of the Tampa Bay Derby undercard Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.

King for a Day, making his first start since two races at Monmouth Park last summer against Maximum Security, gave way grudgingly and was beaten a neck by Trophy Chaser in a sustained stretch duel.

“This is a very nice horse,” said Paco Lopez, who rode Trophy Chaser for JCA Racing Stable and trainer Juan Avila. “I asked the trainer to start running him long distance, and finally he did it last time. As you can see today, he is running very good.”

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Trophy Chaser, a 4-year-old Twirling Candy colt, returned $6.80 as second choice after completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:42.28 over a fast track. He was coming off a two-turn allowance romp at his home track of Gulfstream Park in a breakthrough effort that earned him a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

“This is a great thrill,” Avila said through an interpreter. “I’ve won 12 stakes in Venezuela but this is my first in the United States.”

King for a Day, trained by Todd Pletcher, was the even-money favorite in a field of eight older horses, mostly on the strength of his upset over Maximum Security, the eventual 3-year-old champion, last June in the Pegasus.

Prompt was 11 lengths back in third and followed by Big Dollar Bill in fourth.

This was the first time in 29 runnings that the Challenger was graded.

Doc Boy captures Columbia

One race earlier, Doc Boy launched a huge stretch run in winning the $75,000 Columbia when making his first start in five months.

Trained by Mike Stidham for Stallionaire Enterprises, Doc Boy saved ground when racing mid-pack on both turns of the one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds, then angled out smartly for the drive. Once jockey Joe Bravo asked him for his best, it was all over, as the Into Mischief colt took over with powerful strides in winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Mr. Kringle. The winning time was 1:34.67 over a firm course, and Doc Boy paid $15.20 to win.

Doc Boy won two of five starts last year and had not raced since finishing 12th in the Grade 3 Bourbon in early October at Keeneland. Summer Assault was along late for third, while Chapalu, the 6-5 favorite in a field of 10, faded to fifth after stalking the pace.

J P’s Delight back in winner’s circle

Early on the card, J P’s Delight ($5.40) got an early jump on heavily favored Point of Honor before striding clear to a four-length score in the $39,300 Manatee at seven furlongs.

Trained by Kathleen O’Connell for Brent Fernung and Eugene Cahalan, J P’s Delight finished in 1:22.48 with Paco Lopez aboard. She paid $5.40 to win. The 4-year-old Florida-bred daughter of J P’s Gusto now has won four of five career starts.

Point of Honor ran creditably as the 3-5 favorite in her first start in nearly seven months, and at a shorter than ideal distance. The daughter of Curlin was a standout last year at 3, winning the Suncoast and Black-Eyed Susan and finishing second in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama.