Accomplished Sprinter Looks Tough in Pasco Stakes

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

The second Saturday in January is shaping up as a quiet one on the U.S. racing calendar. There isn't a single graded stakes on the agenda.

That's why we're turning our attention to the $125,000 Pasco S. at Tampa Bay Downs. The seven-furlong dirt dash for three-year-olds isn't the richest race of the day, but it churns out quality winners with regularity. In 2018, the Pasco was won by future Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up World of Trouble. In 2019, it went to future Forego (G1) winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) participant Win Win Win. And remember Musket Man, the third-place finisher from the 2009 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1)? He won the Pasco to kick off his three-year-old season.

Seven horses are entered in the 2024 Pasco, but one is shaping up as a standout on paper. That's #3 Book'em Danno (3-2), a gelded son of Bucchero out of Adorabella, by Ghostzapper. Bucchero won two editions of the 5 1/2-furlong Woodford (G2), and Adorabella previously foaled the multiple stakes-winning sprinter Girl Trouble, so it's safe to say Book'em Danno is bred for speed.

Certainly Book'em Danno is living up to his pedigree. His first three starts came in sprints, and he won them all by daylight margins. First up was a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Monmouth Park, in which Book'em Danno encountered some early trouble before recovering to dominate by 9 1/2 lengths. Then came Monmouth's six-furlong Smoke Glacken S., in which Book'em Danno settled off the early pace before taking over to beat next-out winner Sea Streak by two lengths.

Book'em Danno capped off his sprint streak with a runaway victory in the six-furlong Futurity S. at Belmont at the Big A, where he rated in fourth position early on before taking command in the stretch to trounce his opposition by 6 1/2 lengths. He subsequently lost the one-mile Nashua S. at Aqueduct to Futurity third-place finisher Where's Chris, but Book'em Danno didn't run badly by any means, carving out the pace in his route debut before staying on to finish second by three-quarters of a length.

Any way you slice it, Book'em Danno should be tough to beat while cutting back to seven furlongs for the Pasco. He's got this field measured in terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, and a bullet three-furlong workout in :36 on Jan. 6 at Tampa Bay Downs signals his readiness for a sharp effort in his three-year-old debut. I'll be surprised if Book'em Danno fails to deliver victory.

His stiffest challenge may come from #1 West Saratoga (9-5), who is dropping in class off a fifth-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Futurity (G1). Two starts back, the son of Exaggerator rallied from midfield to take the one-mile Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs by 1 3/4 lengths over a field including next-out Street Sense (G3) winner Liberal Arts.

West Saratoga has done his best work running one mile or farther and probably isn't a sprinter at heart, though it's worth noting he's finished second in three of his four sprint starts. He ran especially well in a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Ellis Park during the summer, finishing second behind future Champagne (G1) winner Timberlake while pulling 6 1/4 lengths clear of next-out maiden winner and eventual Bourbon (G2) hero Can Group.

West Saratoga hasn't run since October, but he's put together a steady string of workouts since Dec. 2 and is slated to be ridden by hot jockey Samy Camacho, a 25% winner at Tampa Bay Downs since November. A top-three finish appears likely.

#4 Crazy Mason (4-1) is progressing in the right direction for trainer Gregory Sacco, a 21% winner at Tampa since November. Crazy Mason hasn't missed the exacta in three sprint starts, most notably rallying to finish second in the six-furlong Inaugural S. at Tampa Bay Downs last month. That effort yielded a 90 Brisnet Speed rating—higher than any number West Saratoga has posted—so there's at least an outside chance this son of Coal Front will edge out his graded stakes-winning rival for an exacta spot. Certainly a top-three finish appears probable.


1st: Book'em Danno
2nd: West Saratoga
3rd: Crazy Mason

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Pasco Stakes?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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