Making his 3-year-old debut in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby, Quip told the world just how much he'd progressed since his juvenile campaign. Owned by breeder WinStar Farm, SF Racing and the China Horse Club, the son of Distorted Humor sat just behind the leader and took over in late stretch to score by about three-quarters of a length and earn his first 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Quip had not run since finishing seventh in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club in November, but trainer Rodolphe Brisset (formerly a jockey and then an assistant to Hall of Famer Bill Mott) had him ready to win, earning his first graded stakes victory in the process.
Off at odds of 19-1, Quip and jockey Florent Geroux completed 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:44.72. Sam F. Davis winner Flameaway raced erratically in the stretch, but ran on in the final sixteenth to secure second at 6-1. Front-running World of Trouble, sent to post as the 8-5 favorite, tired late to finish third.
“We won a lot of big races with the Mott team, and you learn how to handle the feeling,” Brisset said. “But maybe it's a little sweeter because it's my name.
“He is a pretty forward horse and he's a smart horse. On paper, it looked like we were going to be there early, and it was a matter if they were going to let us go (the half) in 47 seconds or 49. I guess they let us go in 49, which was a little surprising to me. It was just a matter of him being fit enough; I'm not sure if we had him 100 percent, but he was fit enough to win today and that's the main thing.”
The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby was the centerpiece of a sterling 12-race Festival Day 38 card that generated a track-record, all-sources handle figure of $14,859,632.98, which was a 21 percent increase over the former record established on Festival Day 2016.
Attendance was 10,232.
As expected, the slight favorite World of Trouble shot straight to the lead out of the starting gate. What was not expected was for that Jason Servis trainee to break to his left, nearly wiping out several of the competitors to his inside (primarily Flameaway). Nonetheless, World of Trouble got to the lead, and Quip, leaving from the outermost post position and avoiding the trouble, was right on his heels heading into the first turn.
Setting mild fractions of :24.54 and :49.48, World of Trouble was hounded by Quip all the way down the backstretch. Flameaway was against the rail in third, but swung to the outside approaching the far turn to make a three-wide bid. Vino Rosso, a strong second choice in the wagering for trainer Todd Pletcher, was just alongside that rival until he was asked for more around the turn; the colt seemed to be spinning his wheels.
Quip drew even with World of Trouble at the top of the stretch, and the two were locked in battle for most of the stretch run. Jockey Irad Ortiz urged World of Trouble to switch back to his left lead, looking for another burst of energy, but the colt was done at the sixteenth pole. Meanwhile, Flameaway had a clear run at the leaders at the head of the lane, but darted in and out a bit before Jose Lezcano got him straightened out at the eighth pole.
Flameaway made up a lot of ground then, but he was too late to catch Quip, who held on to win by three-quarters of a length at the wire. Flameaway had to settle for second, with World of Trouble checking in third. Vino Rosso was fourth, and Tiz Mischief finished fifth.
“I've always thought a lot of him,” said Geroux of the winner. “The way the Jockey Club unfolded, he was between horses most of the time and he didn't really respond when I called him. But I've always known he had talent. Rodolphe rides him in the morning, and he said he was doing fantastic. It seemed like he handled the track very well. Both horses (Quip and pace-setter World of Trouble, who finished third) were doing great, and I'm glad to know Quip was best today.”
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar, Quip is out of the Indian Charlie mare Princess Ash. He broke his maiden on debut at Churchill Downs, then won an allowance race at Keeneland in his second start. In the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Quip had to be steadied at the 5/16th's pole, according to the chart, and finished a faded seventh. Overall, the colt has won three of his four starts to earn over $310,000.
“We knew he had a lot of talent after he won his first two races, but he got a little lost in the Kentucky Jockey Club,” said Elliott Walden, owner of WinStar Farm. “I'm not sure what's next; we're going to enjoy this one and go from there.”
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