Helium Remains Unbeaten With Tampa Bay Derby Surprise

By: Paulick Report

D J Stable’s Helium transformed his synthetic track form to dirt and improved his record to a perfect 3-for-3 with an off-the-pace three-quarter-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla.

Trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Jose Ferrer, Helium ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.55 and paid $32.80 as a 15-1 longshot. Hidden Stash, who ranged up to challenge the winner in mid-stretch, finished second as the 3-1 second choice, with another longshot, 34-1 Moonlite Strike 3 3/4 lengths back in third, Unbridled Honor finished fourth, with King of Dreams fifth. Candy Man Rocket, the  8-5 favorite coming off a victory in the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, bid briefly approaching the far turn but tired to be 11th.

The Tampa Bay Derby offered 85 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby with 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers.

Updated Kentucky Derby leaderboard (Helium is not included on list because he has not yet been nominated to the Triple Crown)

From the first crop of Ironicus, a top-class turf performer by Distorted Humor, Helium won his first two starts on the Tapeta synthetic surface at Woodbine, including a 4 1/4-length victory in the Display Stakes in his most recent start on Oct. 18.

Boca Boy reprised his role from the Sam F. Davis, setting the pace through fractions of :23.23, :47.06 and 1:11.38 for the first six furlongs. King of Dreams and Moonlite Strike were in closest pursuit, with Helium kept to the far outside in the run down the backstretch, with Hidden Stash just behind him.

Approaching the far turn, Ferrer put Helium in a four-wide drive and had the lead entering the stretch. Hidden Stash rallied alongside Helium, possibly putting his nose in front just inside the eighth pole, but Helium fought back and gradually edged clear approaching the wire.

“Mark Casse gave me a great opportunity to go out there and do my job and do my thing,” said Ferrer. “On the backside, I had all kind of horse under me, and I could see who had more horse and when I set him down at the three-eighths pole, I could see I had a chance. I just had so much horse and he flew down the lane. Then I think he got by himself and kind of got bored and he thought, game over. But I still had plemty of horse and be re-broke again.”

“He trained well enough that we thought he deserved a chance,” Casse said. “Again, I have to give so much credit to Nick Tomlinson who had him down at Palm Meadows for us. We had thought about running in the Gotham and thought, if we’re going to try the dirt, let’s run him close to home. It worked well for us.

“This horse is something because he got away a little slow today and we had planned on him being closer,” Casse added. “He made that big wide run, he made the lead but (after Hidden Stash rallied) I was going to be happy with second. I thought, we can build on this, because this is only his third start and there is a lot of room for improvement. What was amazing is that he wasn’t overly exhausted after the race. He’s a beautiful horse, he’s bred to run all day long and he looks like a Derby horse, so it’s exciting.”


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