Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation won two of the six Florida Cup stakes Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs including a stakes-record performance by her homebred Forever Souper in the $100,000 ESMARK Turf Classic. Her Crystal Quest also won $100,000 Equistaff Sophomore Turf.

The 21st edition of the Florida Cup featured six stakes for FTBOA-registered Florida-breds, each with a $100,000 purse plus a $10,000 win bonus for Florida Sire Stakes eligible runners. First run in 2003, the Florida Cup has been run at Tampa Bay Downs every year since, except in 2020 when canceled due to the pandemic.

Forever Souper produced the fifth victory in the Turf Classic by a Live Oak homebred, joining Slew’s Answer in 2011 and millionaires Revved Up (2005), World Approval (2017) and March to the Arch (2019).

Living up to his credentials as the 1-2 post time favorite, Forever Souper and jockey Paco Lopez overtook the frontrunning Happyisashappydoes in deep stretch to win the Turf Classic by a length-and-a-quarter, covering the mile-and-one-eighth on the firm grass course in 1:46.87, missing the course record set by Tepin in the 2016 Hillsborough (G2) by .61 of a second.

“Oh, wow. Really? I didn’t know that [Forever Souper set the stakes record],” Lopez said. “[Trainer] Michael [Trombetta] had him ready, and the horse did it very well. I had plenty of horse today.”

Happyisashappydoes and jockey Antonio Gallardo led the field of seven Florida-bred 4-year-olds and older by a length through fractions of :23.88, :47.75 and 1.11.71 as Forever Souper tracked in fourth on the rail with Otago and Merlin running in second and third respectively to his outside.

Lopez and Forever Souper went on the attack alone around the second turn and were even with Happyisashappydoes in the run for home before pulling away to win by a length-and-a-quarter. Happyisashappydoes held on for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Me and Mr. C, who got underway late to finish third. Otago was fourth followed in order by Merlin, Lord Eddard Start and Seven Bridges Road. Knox was scratched as a “main-track-only” entrant.

Forever Souper paid $3 to win.

It was the second consecutive stakes victory against fellow Florida-breds for the 5-year-old Forever Souper, who won the $95,000 Sunshine Turf going a mile-and-a-sixteenth at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 21.

“We are very fond of him. He’s been a lot of fun,” Trombetta said to the Tampa Bay Downs press team via telephone. “He’s a cool cat, this horse. It would be awfully hard to beat Tepin’s course record, but the stakes record is really great.

“We were looking forward to this race with him. After the last race at Gulfstream, there just wasn’t enough room in the schedule to try to squeeze another race in that would make sense. I figured, you know what? We’ll just point him to this race and give him plenty of time. He came through really well. Paco rides this horse really well and [Forever Souper] seems to run right out from underneath him.”

By American Pharoah out of Mighty Souper, by War Front, Forever Souper has now won six of 13 career starts with one second and two thirds with earnings of $272,255.

Forever Souper is the only black-type winner for the multiple stakes-placed Mighty Souper, who was purchased by Live Oak for $275,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Live Oak since sold her at the 2021 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.

Crystal Quest Continues Live Oak Success in Sophomore Turf

Florida-bred Crystal Quest – SV Photography

Live Oak Plantation won the Equistaff Sophomore Turf for the fifth time and for the third time in the last six runnings when Crystal Quest made a big stretch run to win the mile-and-one-sixteenth test by three-quarters of a length with jockey Javier Castellano aboard.

A field of six 3-year-old Florida-breds went to the post in the $100,000 Sophomore Turf with jockey Edgard Zayas sending Prevent directly to the front from the start. Prevent led by as much as four lengths through quarter-mile fractions of :23.38 and :47.85 as Castellano allowed Crystal Quest to settle in fourth from about six lengths back.

Around the far turn, Crystal Quest followed And Uwish and Lord Knows while four-wide as they began to close in on Prevent, who continued to show the way through six furlongs in 1:12.13. Those four were within two lengths from front to back at the top of the stretch as a resilient Prevent endured on the rail and Crystal Quest began to find his best stride on the far outside.

Crystal Quest made the lead inside the final sixteenth to finish in 1:41.86 on the firm turf with Prevent holding on for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of a late-running Ninja Star in third. And Uwish, Lord Knows and Lena’s Jazz completed the order of finish.

Crystal Quest paid $4 to win as the even-money favorite.

It was the third consecutive win for Crystal Quest, whose only career loss came in a $50,000 maiden optional claiming on the Gulfstream Park synthetic on Dec. 3. Trained by Michael Trombetta, the bay colt then won under those conditions going a mile on the turf before returning to the synthetic to win a first condition, $50,000 optional claiming at a mile-and-70-yards last out on March 9, all at Gulfstream.

Crystal Quest has now earned $122,830 in his four lifetime starts.

Bred by Live Oak Plantation, Crystal Quest is by Uncle Mo out of Giant Crystal, by Giant’s Causeway. Live Oak Plantation purchased Giant Crystal for $450,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale and she has since produced multiple stakes-winner American Giant, by More Than Ready and one other winner from three starters and six foals. Crystal Quest has a yearling filly, Covered in Crystal, by Quality Road; and an unraced 2-year-old colt, Uncle’s Gold, a full-brother to Crystal Quest.

Live Oak Plantation first won the Sophomore Turf in 2008 with El Sultry Sun and then with World Approval (2015), He’s Bankable (2018) and Global Access (2019). Trombetta also trained Global Access.

Return the March 24 issue of Wire to Wire