Noel’s Weekend Winners: Targeting Turf Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs

Welcome to Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners, the place to go for weekend best bets and spot plays from veteran handicapper and tournament-play pioneer Noel Michaels. Check back every week for a couple of highlighted selections designed to help you cash a few bets and make some money.

Noel’s selections have been featured just about everywhere horse racing picks can be found, including in print in the Daily Racing Form, The HorsePlayer Magazine and American Turf Monthly, online at, and, from the paddock on-track at Arlington International Racecourse,

and on the air on HRTV, TVG, NYC OTB Extra, NYRA’s Talking Horses, and on broadcast TV on WAVE-3 Louisville, ABC KOLO-8 in Reno, Nevada, and channel 72 Long Island Cablevision.

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6 Beginner Betting Tools

  1. Start simple with an easy guide for how to bet on horse racing.
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  3. What the heck is a speed figure? This beginner’s guide to speed figures has everything you need to know.
  4. Betting on horse racing can be intimidating. Team ABR put together some Dos and Don’ts for the new fan getting started betting on racing.
  5. We all make mistakes when it comes to betting on horse racing, here are eight lessons learned from experience.
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Saturday, March 11

Tampa Bay Downs takes center stage this Saturday for Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby day, a 12-race card featuring five stakes races including four graded stakes capped off by the 3-year-olds trying to punch their tickets to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve. Before Tapit Trice attempts to take care of business in the featured Tampa Bay Derby, the supporting stakes all look like competitive fields and good betting races. Let’s focus on two of those – the Columbia Stakes and the Hillsborough Stakes – and try to build some bankroll before the horses take to the track for the Tampa Bay Derby. Best of luck.

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 7, $75,000, Columbia Stakes, post 3:02 p.m. ET

The Columbia Stakes is a one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds that has drawn a good 10-horse field. The horse to beat is #7 Worthington trained by Mike Maker, who took a shot on the main track last time to no avail in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, but now aims to get back on track at what he does best in this turf mile. Prior to the dirt loss in the Sam Davis, Worthington had been cruising right along on the grass, where he won back-to-back outings at Keeneland and Churchill Downs last fall and then finished a solid third at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 7 in the Dania Beach Stakes when last seen on the green. If he runs back to those efforts in this spot, he wins. The best competition should come from #9 Mo Stash, who makes his first start since finishing fourth in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, beaten only three lengths by some of the world’s best at this distance at Keeneland. His lone career win came at 5 ½ furlongs and he has been off in the four months since the Breeders’ Cup, but he seems to have picked a realistic spot to make his 3-year-old debut today and gets Luis Saez aboard for this return effort.

The Play: Bet #7 Worthington (9-2) to win and box him in the exacta with #9 Mo Stash (7-2).

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 9, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes, post time 4:04 p.m. ET

The Hillsborough is a Grade 2 turf race going 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares that has drawn a seven-horse field. It’s no surprise in a spot like this to see some prominent Chad Brown-trained contenders, and this race is no exception. One of the notable efforts from Pegasus World Cup day at Gulfstream Park back on Jan. 28 was that of #6 Shantisara, who closed for second within 1 ½ lengths of the win in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Presented by Pepsi as she continues her return to her best form. Shantisara was a force as a 3-year-old in 2021, winning the $671,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park along with the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington International and the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland. She missed most of 2022, but the last race signaled a return to form for Shantisara, and that spells bad news for the rest of the competition today. The main rival she’ll have to beat is one of the other Chad Brown entrants in the field, #4 Rougir, who was last seen when well-beaten in the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Before that, she had scored a career-best victory in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine at 1 ¼ miles. Earlier last year, she also won the Grade 3 Beaugay Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, so this 1 1/8 miles should not cost Rougir her best chance today if she’s good enough.

The Play:  Bet #6 Shantisara (2-1) and a Chad Brown exacta box along with #4 Rougir (7-2).