The Morning Line: Sam F. Davis Stakes

Pletcher Looks to Stay Hot in Tampa Bay

#5 Reveron Wins the Gulstream Park Derby

Coming off of a big win with Algorithms in last weekend’s Holy Bull, Todd Pletcher is looking for his 3rd consecutive win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and fourth in the last 6 years. Pletcher is hot right now and racing to keep things warm is Ecabroni, owned by St. George Stable and ridden by Javier Castellano. Before we break down his chances of scoring Pletcher another win, let’s look at the G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

 Because it wasn’t until 2009 that the Sam F. Davis was officially promoted to a graded stakes race it should come as no surprise that no winner has yet to go on to win the Kentucky Derby. Because graded stakes earnings matter a great deal in the Kentucky Derby qualification process, the Sam F. Davis is now a legitimate prep for the $350,000 G2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10 and an early stepping stone en route to the first Saturday in May.   

This year’s field draws a nice crowd of 11 derby hopefuls which also leaves it rather wide open.  Racing over dirt, through two turns and a total distance of 1 1/16 mile, the Sam F. Davis Stakes is going to be a lot of fun. Let’s take a glance at the field scheduled to enter the starting gate and begin working their way towards May.

Race 11 – G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes | Purse $250,000 | 1 1/16 Mile | Dirt

PP Horse Jockey  Trainer ML Odds
State of Play A. Garcia G. Motion 4-1
2 Holy Highway A. Serpa D. Ryan 20-1
3 Battle Hardened J. Leparoux E. Kenneally 12-1
4 Ecabroni J. Castellano T. Pletcher 7-2
5 Moroccan Brew R. Feliciano D. Ward 30-1
6 Neck ‘n Neck J. Lezcano I. Wilkes 5-1
7 Fox Rules H. Villa-Gomez M. Ferrano 30-1
8 Ravelo’s Boy J. Sanchez M. Azpurua 15-1
9 Burning Time L. Goncalves D. Fawkes 12-1
10 Reveron F. Jara A. Bezara 3-1
11 Prospective L. Contreras M. Casse 6-1

Transferring back now to Todd Pletcher and his lightly raced and second choice Ecabroni. What is most attractive about this colt so far is that he’s trained by Todd Pletcher. He knows what he has in his barn and knows which horses have the ability to become Kentucky Derby contenders. So even though he’s only had one win in his previous two MSW races at Gulfstream, big time trainers with horses that train well always get credit on the Morning Line.  (Last work, 1/29: 4F 48.02, breezing)

I’m going to have to see more from him against a graded stakes field before I advance him into Derby Contender status. However, keep in mind that another Todd Pletcher horse just recently catapulted past a few horses on the Kentucky Derby trail after racing very little and never any further than 6 ½ furlongs. Just like Algorithms, your Holy Bull winner, Ecabroni enters coming off a sprint victory in his second career race. The difference is that Ecabroni’s was ½ furlong further, 7F and more recent, Jan 14.

The favorite is Reveron, winner of the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day. The win was his third in a row and first outside of Calder where he scored his MSW victory and first allowance. The GP Derby also had a field of 11 and was raced at 1 1/16 mile but he will be facing a different challenge here – Post Position #10. Last time out he broke from the 7 hole and settled in at 2nd place right behind a pace of decent fractions – 23.45, 47.42 & 1:11.98. He made his move at the ¾ pole and was able to hang on for the lead. In order to win here I think he’s going to need to get out of the gate nicely but avoid becoming the pace setter. That can be a dangerous racing position because I expect quick fractions but also expect a field that will be hard to hold off down the stretch.  Look for Reveron to try to repeat his last win racing strategy; break towards the front, stalk close and wait for the right time to make a move.

 Another great addition to the field is the connections to last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Trainer Graham Motion is teamed up with Team Valor and their colt State of Play. As Graham Motion has proved, his horses don’t need to race on dirt to win on dirt. Animal Kingdom became the first ever Kentucky Derby winner that had never raced on dirt prior. After 3 career races on turf, the Sam F. Davis will be State of Play’s dirt debut. His big score was last fall in the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga where he rated very well going wire to wire for the win. The win lined him up for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf but it wasn’t the outcome his connections were looking for – 12th place. After a nice layoff and training over the Tampa Bay dirt on 4 different occasions in January it’s going to be very interesting to see what he can do.

Finally were going to look at Prospective, a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile finisher that bounced back very well after a disappointing 13th place finish. Bred in Kentucky this colt began his career north of the border at Woodbine where he scored a big win the Grey Stakes. Electing to stay off the synthetics and stick to dirt the colt returned for his 3-yr-old debut at Tampa Bay Downs and the 7F Pasco on Jan 14. The win has him back on track and puts him in the hunt for the Sam F. Davis. Tough draw with the far outside 11 post but a good ride can do alot in this race. Owned by John C. Oxley, winner of the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarcho’s (2nd fastest KY Derby ever) there are derby intentions all over this colt. It only takes one for you to want another so if all goes well I expect Prospective to remain on the derby trail.  

These are your top contenders going in but coming out is capable of looking a whole lot different. The race is wide open for the taking so any of the lesser known can very easily score from off the radar. I’m going to be watching the odds very closely on this one because I’m not sold on a win bet with any of the horses in the field (or not yet). If the odds play against State of Play I’m likely to take him across the board.

The most interesting odds to watch are going to be Ecabroni. If the betting public is drinking the Pletcher cool aid and his odds drop considerably, I’m going to have to try to beat him from two different angles.  The other angle will be with my live longshot: Battle Hardened. Love taking a flyer with Julien Leparoux so why not? Trained by Eddie Kenneally and owned by Micheal Tabor this is a colt that is bred for distance. He has yet to win but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t seen a horse score his first win in a graded stakes race.

Good luck to all of our contenders in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, we hope to see you finish in good condition and find you again on the derby trail.

Written by: Little Brink


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