Tampa Bay Downs is the site for Saturday's Sam F. Davis Stakes, yet another stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby! Check out this preview, with all the grades, below ...
Race 10: 1 1/16th (Dirt), Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), Purse $250k, 3 (Saturday)
Tampa Bay Downs continues to serve as one of the most underrated tracks in all of North America. They have solid fields, and a great set of surfaces. The Sam F. Davis (G3) is an important test on the Kentucky Derby Trail, and over the years some fabulous runners have attempted to stake their claim not only to the purse money, but also the Derby points that are available—10-4-2-1. Past champs include Todd Pletcher’s stamp: Bluegrass Cat, Any Given Saturday, Vinceremos, and Destin, all come to mind. Others have challenged the Hall of Fame trainer; as Pat Biancone (Sole Volante) and Bill Mott (Candy Man Rocket) notched wins over the past 2 years. With Pletcher elsewhere, another conditioner is ready to stake their claim!
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 Mr Rum Runner (Jky: R. Maragh/Trn: P. Biancone):
Trainer Pat Biancone won this race a couple years back with the talented Sole Volante, and Saturday he returns with a colt by Uncaptured. This one was 3rd last time out in the Mucho Macho Man $150k down at Gulfstream. He was well-behind Sano’s Simplification that afternoon … 11 lengths. It is difficult to see him improving on that effort, especially with a field as large as this one.
#2 Unpredictable Boy (Jky: A. Quinonez/Trn: A. Ali):
This colt by Cairo Prince is trying to come off-the-bench after a 2+ month layoff. That is not unheard of, and I am not saying that Alnaz Ali’s charge cannot run well. But the likelihood of him being sharp is in question. Julien Leparoux guided him to 3 really fine races back at Churchill Downs last fall. Now, Luis Q gets the call … can this one take on a 2-turn challenge like this? Remains to be seen … unpredictable …
#3 Classic Causeway (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: B. Lynch):
Here is another Derby Trail runner that has not been seen since Churchill in November. He was awfully sharp in the KY Jockey Club (G2), running 2nd to Kenny McPeek’s Smile Happy. A classy runner, conditioner Brian Lynch has this son of Giant’s Causeway pointed in the right direction. Making his ’22 debut is going to be interesting because it will give us an understanding of that race’s quality. A homebred, he gets the services of one of the strongest riders in the world—Irad Ortiz. He is aggressive, and has the opportunity to get this one on track. With a 7F work … look out!
#4 Golden Glider (Jky: A. Gallardo/Trn: M. Casse):
In early January, this colt by Ghostzapper turned some heads when he ran in an OC75k event at Tampa. Ridden ably by expert jockey Antonio Gallardo, Mark Casse watched as this 3-yr-old went 4-wide at the top of the lane … winning by a length and then some. Sold at the Keeneland November Sale back in 2019 for $395k, I wouldn’t count that Speed Fig of 82 against him (it only measures the final time). In other words, the potential is there for growth. Casse has HOF experience when it comes to getting Derby Trail runners ready, and I like the look of this one. Could be my top pick …
#5 God of Love (Jky: R. Hernandez/Trn: M. Casse):
Aron Wellman’s Eclipse Thoroughbreds is coming off another banner year, and they own a colt by Cupid that has great potential. Here is a runner that likes to come from way off-the-pace, and expect that to be the case again. That kind of style takes an immense amount of power because the dirt gets deeper and harder to plow through as a race unfolds. Running on the AW surface at Woodbine is quite different than the MT in Florida. Will see how this one responds with regular rider, Rafael Hernandez, in-town.
#6 Trademark (Jky: D. Centeno/Trn: V. Oliver):
Vicky Oliver entered her gelding by Upstart at a number of Kentucky tracks through the fall. Ellis, Keeneland, and Churchill … they were all stops along the way. From MSW Co. into an OC80k, this runner developed an “early” approach. The major issue coming into Tampa is of course, the dreaded layoff. For handicappers, it is very tough to gauge fitness, with little to go on, except for a work tab. What we do know is that this one was at Payson Park after the 1st of the year … that helps. Even better news is the addition of Daniel Centeno … one of my favorite riders at this track. Outside shot to medal … Still, could be a sleeper pick from a barn that does not get much acclaim.
#7 Make It Big (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: S. Joseph):
The Saffie Joseph Show in S. Florida makes trips up to Tampa to compete, especially when major stakes are on the docket. Red Oak Stable owns one of his charges, and this son of Neolithic brings an undefeated record into his 1st “graded” race. The last time we saw this one, he was driving down the stretch at Remington Park in the $400k Springboard Mile. It was an impressive display against what amounted to a pretty solid field. Jose Ortiz was on-hand, and he is back once again for Joseph. This will be a test though … if this colt wins … he could be the real deal. I am still skeptical …
#8 Shipsational (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: E. Barker):
Here is yet another entry that has major question marks when it comes to his fitness. A son of Midshipman, this 3-yr-old was impressive over 4 races at NYRA tracks … Saratoga and Belmont. Even though he won 3 of those, we must take note that those were against state-bred company. That doesn’t mean his experience is lacking; rather, it's the level of competition might be overwhelming in this race. Trainer Ed Barker does not get many opportunities like this, and he is going with Javier Castellano, a rider with immense experience. Even that might not be enough …
#9 Howling Time (Jky: J. Talamo/Trn: D. Romans):
I was taken by a Dale Romans entry last year in this race, and I think while this well-known trainer has a fine record, of late, it doesn’t measure up. Maybe I will be proven wrong with this son of Not This Time, but he is another layoff horse that will have to be ready to roll come Saturday. Regular Romans rider, Joe Talamo is present, and the Albaugh Family Stables are hoping that KYD148 Points can come their way. They missed out on them last time in the KY Jockey Club (G2) @CD—5th.
#10 Volcanic (Jky: E. Gonzalez/Trn: M. Casse):
One of three Casse entries that will vie for the top spot on the scoreboard, when this Grade 3 posts ... A well-bred son of Violence he was purchased at the September Keeneland Sale back in 2020. Unlike many of his rivals, this colt does have a more recent race under him. Back on 8 Jan., his conditioner entered in a MSW Co. spot at Gulfstream. He rolled nicely in the end, and won by a neck. Edwin Gonzalez comes up from Hallandale, and his numbers are impressive. This could be one of Casse’s best … he might make some noise in the end.
#11 Strike Hard (Jky: L. Reyes/Trn: M. Williams):
Another alum of the Mucho Macho Man $150k is this son of Flashback. This Matt Williams runner was actually a very short price in that Gulfstream prep for the G3 Holy Bull. So, we would conclude that his 2nd place finish in that contest was a bit of a disappointment. The colt already has 6 races under his belt, and that constitutes deep experience. Leo Reyes gets back aboard, since Junior Alvarado did not make the trip, and he rode him during his 1st 4 career races. Williams’ runner has to be considered a threat with some tactical speed that looks sharp.
#12 Kitten Mischief (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: J. Thomas):
As a serious believer in trainer Jonathan Thomas’ abilities, bettors always need to consider his entries. In this spot, he has a lightly-raced gelding by super sire Into Mischief. With a couple of races to his credit, he looks to be one of those “wise guy” picks that could end up being there in the end. Augustin Stable has owned some good ones over the years, and this one is no exception. Posting a solid number last out at Gulfstream in an OC75k event … he missed against 5 others. Thomas will do what he does best—recalibrate. Interestingly enough, Manny Franco makes the trip down from Aqueduct to warm up, and ride this gelding. It will be his 1st time.
#13 Little Vic (AE) (Jky: P. Lopez/Trn: J. Avila):
A couple of years ago, trainer Juan Carlos Avila came to Tampa Bay Downs with a colt named King Guillermo … they shocked the racing world with a major win in the Tampa Bay Derby. Owned by former Major League All-Star, Victor Martinez, he enjoyed the thrill of victory. Now, the folks at Victoria Ranch are back at it, and are after a trip to Churchill. This young sprinter, who is stretching out from 2 sprint races, is on the “Also-Eligible” list … so, that means he may, or may not, make it in. There is no doubt that his sire gets my blood pumping—Practical Joke—so, that makes this one intriguing. Paco Lopez, a rider many love to despise, will be in the tunnel, ready to suit up. Waiting …
Join us Saturday for all of our Sam Davis Day selections! Should be a great set of races from Tampa Bay Downs! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!