Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Forever Souper is favored to become the fifth winner of the $100,000 ESMARK Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs for his owner Sunday when the 4-year-old gelding takes on seven possible rivals in the mile-and-one-eighth test for older Florida-breds. The Turf Classic is one of six stakes for registered Florida-breds on the 21st Florida Cup card—all of which offer a $10,000 win bonus for Florida Sire Stakes-eligible runners.

The famous white, red and black colors of Live Oak Plantation have been seen on such notable Turf Classic winners as millionaires Revved Up in 2004, World Approval in 2016 and 2019 victor March to the Arch while 2011 Turf Classic-winner Slew’s Answer was also a Live Oak homebred. World Approval added additional fame to his credentials as the winner of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Mile (Grade 1) and as that year’s Eclipse Award Champion Turf Male.

Forever Souper is the 6-5 morning line favorite for Sunday’s Turf Classic based on his length victory against Florida-breds in the $95,000 Sunshine Turf over a mile-and-a-sixteenth at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 21.

The Michael Trombetta-trained 5-year-old has been a picture of consistency throughout his 12-race career with five wins, a second and two thirds with earnings of $212,255.

This will be his second start on the Tampa Bay Turf for Forever Souper after finishing second, just a nose shy of Candidate in an upper level, $100,000 optional claiming at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass on Dec. 24. He was two-for-six last year with consecutive victories coming over the Monmouth Park grass—first against allowance horses going a mile in July then defeating second condition, $30,000 optional claimers at nine furlongs in September.

Forever Souper is by American Pharoah out of Mighty Souper, by War Front and will be ridden by Paco Lopez from post one.

Me and Mr. C will look to avenge a sixth-place finish in Forever Souper’s Sunshine Turf and a runner-up finish to Drama Chorus in last year’s Turf Classic. The 7-year-old gelded son of Journeyman Stud stallion Khozan will be looking for his second victory in the Turf Classic, however, having won the 2021 edition.

Trained by Michael Maker for Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher, Me and Mr. C won three consecutive stakes last year beginning with the $90,000 Soldier’s Dancer at a mile-and-70-yards on the Gulfstream Park synthetic in June. He then won the $102,000 Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial going a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the Horseshoe Indianapolis grass in July and the $192,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup over 10 furlongs at Ellis Park in August.

Me and Mr. C is out of Abiding, by Dynaformer and was in Florida by Stonehedge LLC. He has 10 wins, seven seconds and five thirds in 37 lifetime starts with earnings of $579,589.

Me and Mr. C will break from post six with Edgard Zayas aboard and is the 9-5 second choice in the program.

Looking for his second victory in a Florida Cup race is the Kelsey Danner-trained Otago, winner of the $100,000 Equistaff Sophomore Turf last year during this event.

Owned by Crowns Way Racing LLC, NBS Stable, Edward Delava and Eli Diamant, Otago makes his first start since May when finishing off the board in the Grade 2 American Turf presented by BMW won by Webslinger.

Labeled at 6-1 on the morning line, Otago is by Speightstown out of Mom’s Deputy, by War Chant and was bred in Florida by Courtney Meagher and Speightstown Syndicate. He has won two with a second and a third in six starts with earnings of $134,225.

Adam Beschizza has the assignment on Otago and they will break from post eight.

Rounding out the field for the Turf Classic are Lord Eddard Stark and rider Javier Castellanom, Knox is entered under main track only conditions with Zayas named to ride, Daniel Centeno has the assignment on Merlin, Seven Bridges Road will be guided by Jose Morelos and Happyisashappydoes with Antonio Gallardo in the saddle.

Return to the March 23 issue of Wire to Wire