Grade I-winning millionaire Firenze Fire, a participant in last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and Breeders' Cup, heads a list of 51 entrants in Sunday's 17th annual Florida Cup Day at Tampa Bay Downs.
Each of the six Florida Cup stakes races for registered Florida-breds offers a purse of $115,000. Post time for the first of Sunday's 12 races is 12:25 p.m.
Firenze Fire, a 4-year-old colt bred and owned by Ron Lombardi's Mr. Amore Stables and trained by Jason Servis, is entered in the 6-furlong Zaxby's Sprint, in which he'll face seven rivals while breaking from the No. 8 post position. He will be ridden by four-time leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Antonio Gallardo. The Zaxby's Sprint is the ninth race on the card.
The son of Poseidon's Warrior-My Every Wish, by Langfuhr, will be making his first start since a fourth-place finish on Nov. 3 in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs. Prior to that, he had won the Grade III Gallant Bob Stakes on Sept. 22 at Parx Racing and the Grade III Dwyer Stakes on July 7 at Belmont, which was his first effort after finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby.
As a 2-year-old, Firenze Fire won the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont.
After the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, Firenze Fire was sent to the Sequel Bloodstock farm of Becky Thomas in Ocala for a few months of rest and relaxation. “He had some well-deserved time off,” said Servis. “Trying to make the (Kentucky) Derby was hard. We got it done, but it was press, press, press.
“He ran against the best 3-year-olds in the country last year, and it's going to be interesting to see what kind of 4-year-old season he has. He looked great when I got him back, and my gut feeling is he's going to be a real nice 4 and 5-year-old,” Servis said.
Servis, who also trains Florida-bred World of Trouble, winner here of the 2018 Pasco Stakes and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes, chose the Zaxby's Sprint to start cranking up Firenze Fire for more lucrative assignments.
“I was trying to find an easier spot to start him back, but this race Sunday came up way tougher than I anticipated,” Servis said. “We needed a starting point, and if he wins, great, but if he doesn't we're fine. We're planning to put him on a plane for Belmont Park on Wednesday and we have a lot of options with him” (including the Grade I, $1.2-million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on June 8 at Belmont).
Servis has also entered 7-year-old gelding Ray's Warrior in the Florida Cup Zaxby's Sprint. He will be ridden by leading Oldsmar jockey Samy Camacho.
Firenze Fire and Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc.'s 6-year-old gelding Quijote, a multiple-stakes winner, will carry top weight of 124 pounds. Quijote, a son of Pomeroy-Soi Disant, by Holy Bull, has been in excellent form of late, winning the Sunshine Millions Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 19 and finishing second in the Grade III Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes on March 2.
Quijote, who breaks from the No. 4 post, is trained by Georgina Baxter and will be ridden by six-time Tampa Bay Downs leading rider Daniel Centeno.
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