War PassWar Pass (brisnet) Nominal Kentucky Derby favourite War Pass suffered his first defeat in seven starts at the weekend creating confusion and doubt as the Run To The Roses gathers pace. War Pass was sent out a 1-9 favourite in the G3 Tampa Bay Derby in Florida, but finished last to the Barclay Tagg-trained Big Truck.

Click here to watch the Tampa Bay Derby 2008.

Tagg freely admitted he had instructed jockey Eibar Coa to ride for second place in the 1700m race. “I thought we were he second best horse,” Tagg said. Whether that is the case remains uncertain after War Pass clearly raced well below his best, despite missing the start and suffering mild interference soon after.

Trainer Nick Zito said his colt had found itself in unfamiliar territory after having led at each of his previous six wins. But he also acknowledged that when War Pass was asked to do something he failed to respond.

Big Truck came from the back of the eight-horse field to wear down runner-up Atoned to score by a neck with Dynamic Wayne in third place. If War Pass’s defeat is taken as a sign to dismiss him from Derby calculations, the win of Georgie Boy in the G2 San Felipe at Santa Anita could rule him in.

Georgie Boy scored his third consecutive victory since taking last summer’s G1 Del Mar Futurity. While he was regarded more as a sprinting type prior to his win in the 1700m contest, Georgie Boy now looks capable of stretching out to the 2000m at Churchill Downs.

A decision is yet to be made on a lead up to the Kentucky Derby which rests between either the G1 Santa Anita Derby on April 5 or the G2 Arkansas Derby a week later. The weekend’s other significant pointer came in an ungraded race in New Mexico where Liberty Bull took out the US$600,000 WinStar Derby on Sunday.

While the race was worth twice that of the Tampa Bay Derby, because it was ungraded it won’t count toward the colt’s qualification for the Kentucky Derby. Liberty Bull, nevertheless appears to have improved since finishing third behind Denis of Cork and Sierra Sunset in the G3 Southwest Stakes at his previous run.

Extract by Mike Hedge from Stallions Daily Bulletin