Battle Hardened Enters The Derby Trail

Choosing the Sam F. Davis Pays Off

In a field that wasn’t exactly loaded with stars it can be easy to dismiss the winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Before we do let’s take a closer look so that we don’t underestimate what this win tells us about his chances on the derby trail.

Battle Hardened Owner Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier  – Trainer Eddie Kenneally – Jockey Julien Leparoux.     Foaled March 12, 2009 (KY) by Giant’s Causeway and Jen’s Fashion by Northern Fashion.

To properly qualify his derby contender status we’ll begin with the colt’s first ever win; The Sam F. Davis Stakes. That’s right, the lightly raced colt failed to score in his first three races which left trainer Eddie Kenneally with a big decision to make before the weekend. Leave him in Gulfstream for another Maiden race or take him to Tampa for his Graded Stakes debut? Looks like his instintcs were right on the money.

He didn’t enter with the best resume in the field but when a horse becomes three is when corners are sometimes turned. Battle Hardened may have made the turn.

Breaking from PP 3 Battle Hardened nestled into the 4 spot where he began to stalk from the inside. Rounding the final turn Julien Leparoux moved him off the rail to find an opening. Even though it took him 4 wide to find it Battle Hardened was positioned in the clear and the drive for home was on. With about a furlong to go he drove past Reveron to his inside and held on readily for the win by a length and a half.

G3 Sam F. Davis Stakes | Purse $200,000 | 1 1/16 Mile | Dirt | 1:44.58 – Track Fast

  1. #3 Battle Hardened                   $11.00    $5.60     $4.40
  2. #11 Prospective                                           $5.20     $3.60
  3. #10 Reveron                                                                $3.60

$2 Exacta $62.00      $1 Trifecta $369.40   $1 Superfecta $2,561.30

  • Also Ran (in order of finish) Ravelo’s Boy, Neck N’ Neck, Fox Rules, State of Play, Burning Time, Moroccan Brew, Holy Highway, Ecabroni. ChartReplay

In order to get on the trail to Kentucky there wasn’t much time left before this colt needed to start collecting graded stakes earnings. All it takes is a win so from $0 to $120,000, Battle Hardened is now on the derby qualification radar. That’s a nice way to introduce yourself to the derby trail but something tells me that this horse’s connections had derby ideas before the Sam F. Davis. The main reason for that has everything do with his ability to run longer races.

In his second career race at Churchill Downs Battle Hardened entered his first going two turns – 1 1/16 mile. After a finishing nicely in 2nd place, Eddie Kenneally took him down to Florida where he’d race even further next time out – 1 1/8 mile. Though he was wore down on the lead and beaten by a head, Battled Hardened ended his 2-yr-old racing season as a horse that was capable of handling derby prep distances. The only question would be how he would respond to racing against graded stakes company.

It isn’t always so rare to see a horse wait for the main stage to break his maiden. In fact the Sam F. Davis betting public was sensing that it may be his day. Starting at 12-1 on the Morning Line Battle Hardened would enter the gate as the third choice at 9-2. What I saw next was a very relaxed horse under a veteran rider that looked like he’d been in the winner’s circle before.  What impressed me the most was his long stride and his endurance to keep running after crossing the wire.

It’s been since 1995 that owner Michael Tabor achieved his lone Kentucky Derby victory with Thunder Gulch. As for Eddie Kenneally and Julien Leparoux that’s a goal that is still waiting to be reached. So it’s without a doubt that this team is going to ride this win to the next derby prep and hopefully all the way to the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. It is very likely that Battle Hardened will return for the G2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10 for his next derby prep.  We’ll wait until then before we again qualify his chances but till then our vote is in: Middle of the Pack, Kentucky Derby Contender.

Now on to a couple of horses that will be working to keep their derby hopes in play. It will be interesting to see which direction State of Play will go next. After breaking from the 1 post he went to the lead and set the early pace with fractions of 23.91 and 47.81 before giving way and finishing a disappointing 7th. It was the first ever race on dirt for the Grade 2 turf winner so we’ll see if trainer Graham Motion and Team Valor send him back to the turf next time out or if they elect to try him back on dirt in another derby prep.

Second place finisher Prospective is still making headway and remains on the derby qualifier board after adding an additional $40,000 to his graded stakes earnings. That brings his total to $155,452, ranking him inside the top 15. Prospective mounted a hard charge from well off the pace and stormed home to nip a second place finish by a nose. If the race had been longer it would have been exciting to see him try to wear down Battle Hardened because he looks like a horse that can go a little further than 1 1/16 Mile as well. No news on his next start so keep an eye out for what derby prep will be his next race on the trail.

Overall there might not be a lot of value in the Sam F. Davis results but our first and second place finisher will have the opportunity to add to it next time out. As for Battle Hardened alone, congratulations to your connections. I love a horse that is ready to run a little further than most at this stage of the derby trail. Good luck, we look forward to seeing you race again at Tampa Bay Downs in March.

Written by: Little Brink

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