Tampa Bay Downs will join the Kentucky Derby trail this Saturday as they host the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. This 1-1/16 mile test over the dirt course will offer a purse of $250,000 to the 10 3yr old hopefuls, as well as 10-4-2-1 derby points to the top four finishers. The Sam F. Davis Stakes is the signature prep for the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9th.
The Tampa Bay Downs course has been favoring early speed in dirt routes, with a surprising percentage of winners coming from outside posts. Unlike last week, hopefully we won’t have to worry about an off track as the forecast from now thru Saturday night in Tampa shows little chance of rain.
My early speed figures lead me to believe that we may have a quick pace on our hands as Ben Colebrook’s Knicks Go and Kathleen O’Connell’s Well Defined have shown superior quickness out of the gate.
Knicks Go, after breaking his maiden at Ellis Park, continued to get no respect at the windows in his next 4 outings, which included a G1 Breeder’s Futurity win at odds of 70-1, and a BC Juvenile 2nd place finish where he was sent off at 40-1. Knicks Go’s stellar long shot run came to an end as he finished 18 lengths back as the 3-1 favorite over the slop in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.
Adding to the speed up front, there are sprinters who are looking to dabble in the derby prep routes. Going for Gold is still a maiden but has shown early foot in 2 sprint starts at Laurel. Cave Run, while not gunning for the lead in 2 sprint tries, showed nice speed in breaking his maiden but was out-classed by the track record setting Win Win Win in Tampa’s Pasco Stakes.
With all this early speed, I am going to have to play against the mild bias and look for someone to get a good trip and close in on the speedsters down the lane. I will also be looking for a horse that shows signs of improving, and Todd Pletcher’s So Alive may fit that bill. So Alive’s last race was an optional claimer where he was headed and briefly looked beaten by Counter Offer. So Alive then turned it back on and beat Counter Offer by 1.5 lengths.
Still Dreaming will break from the outside and will need to keep moving forward as he did while easily breaking his maiden at Laurel on New Year’s Day.
The horse I landed on for a mild upset is Kentucky Wildcat. Trained by Thomas Albertrani and ridden by Joe Bravo, Kentucky Wildcat broke his maiden by a half length while posting a speed figure that would make him competitive in this week’s spot. But that win was more impressive than it looked. He battled 3 wide around 2 other speedsters and held on against 2nd place finisher Country House. Country House came back to win easily in his next, even after breaking 10 lengths behind the field. Country House is now pointed to the G2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.
Let’s take Kentucky Wildcat for the win in the Sam F. Davis.