The Derby trail continues this week with the $250,000 G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. The 1-1/16th mile race around 2 turns on Tampa Bay Downs’ dirt course will feature 7 probable starters, all hoping to earn purse money and the coveted Kentucky Derby points (10-4-2-1).
This small but competitive field includes a maiden, an undefeated, and even some graded stakes winners, in what looks to be a competitive bunch. They will compete on a Tampa Bay Downs dirt course that has not been very kind to 2-turn front runners recently with only 18% of winners leading wire to wire.
Morning line 8/5 favorite Catholic Boy, trained by Jonathon Thomas and ridden by Manuel Franco, is a formidable favorite in this group. His Dec. 2nd victory in the Remen Stakes at Aqueduct was done with relative ease as he handily defeated a field which included last week’s G3 Withers winner Avery Island by nearly 5 lengths. He won while taking the overland route, behind a slow pace, on a speed favoring track.
There does not look to be too much pace in this field. The front should be contested by #2, Flameaway, and the #7, Vouch. Flameaway has posted the best recent early speed figures, including a 2-hole stalking trip in the hotly contested Breeder’s Cup Juvenile where he faded to 8th. Vouch looks like he wants to be up close but his speed figures say he will try and fail again this week.
And then there is the undefeated 3/1 morning line Vino Rosso, trained by Todd Pletcher. With only a maiden and allowance victory under his belt, we still don’t know what’s beneath the hood. He is supremely bred, was heavily bet in both starts, sat close to anemic paces, and won both with ease. This will be his first attempt against a more accomplished field. With such slow pace setups in these races where he was allowed to easily settle early, I would need a better price to back him.
The horse I landed on is the favorite, Catholic Boy. I hate to tout chalk, especially with 3yr olds in February, but Catholic Boy has been progressing nicely, and his win in the Remen was even better than it looks in the pp’s. To shoot for a price, I will play him in an exacta with the #2, Flameaway. Flameaway is 4 for 6 lifetime and has won at this distance. If he can get loose on the lead, I will hope he can hang on for 2nd behind Catholic Boy.
Catholic Boy for the win and an ice cold exacta Catholic Boy and Flameaay.