2017 Kentucky Derby Trail – $250,000 Grade 3 – Sam F. Davis Stakes from Tampa Bay Downs

Oldsmar, FL –

$250,000 Grade III – Sam F. Davis



#1 – State of Honor (ON) Julien Leparoux/Mark Casse


Started his two year old campaign in two stakes races. He ran very well in the Victoria in July, stalked-bid-outfinished, then he struggled for a while until breaking the maiden in October against a much easier field, went off at 6-5, came back in the Coronation Futurity and ran well, got the lead at 5-1 and was caught late in his first attempt at 9furlongs. Came back in the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream, was caught wide throughout in three year old debut, but closed gamely down the outside and just missed at 13-1. He has proven recently that he can post good Grade 3 type figures. If he can get a clean trip, save ground, he could have a shot as a versatile horse in a race of unkowns.


#2 – King and His Court (ON) Gary Boulanger/Mark Casse

Toronto Ont.November 13, 2016.Woodbine Racetrack.Coronation Futurity.King and His Court Jockey Gary Boulanger.WEG/michael burns photo

The second entry for Mark Casse started in a less optimistic role as a two year old. He did win in his third start at 3-1. His sire, Court Vision, didn’t show the best when routing, but this one out of the dam Pennywhistle has routed extremely well and been in the money every time going two turns. He has been consistently improving since breaking the maiden in mid-July. He had three consecutive third place finished, one in an allowance event on the turf, one in the Colin Stakes, and one in the competitive Grade 3 – Grey at odds of 14-1. From that point on, Mark Casse took over from owner/trainer Alexander Patykewich and the horse has taken another step forward, won both starts in the Coronation Futurity as favorite and followed that up with a winning troubled start in the Display, surging to victory at the wire. The question with this one will continue to be his breeding and how good is his Canadian form going to translate to the states. He will get his first test in the Sam F. Davis, jockey Gary Boulanger will travel to town for the mount and I anticipate a very good effort. Even with the recent form, this horse has not paced as fast as the other Casse entry on the rail, so my guy says if you like a Casse entry, lean to the one with Julien Leparoux and bred To Honor and Serve


#3 – Fact Finding (KY) John Velazquez/Todd Pletcher


This horse was on my horses to watch list before his debut at Saratoga. He has not disappointed. He waltzed against a top group at The Spa. He came back even more impressive in a second level allowance race at Keeneland, and followed that up with a gate-to-wire romp in The Smooth Air at Gulfstream in December. It is a little curious that Pletcher has waited til now to start the three year old season for this one, but he has worked out consistently and they could be waiting for the Tampa two-step to the Derby which Pletcher has utilized in the past. He has shown great early pace figures and good closing kick in his first two starts. I would consider this horse by The Factor as the one to beat based on paper. He is undefeated for good reason and John Velazquez wouldn’t have traveled into town if Pletcher wasn’t going for a top effort. He faces his toughest test to date, should do well, and is my pick to win.


#4 – Chance of Luck (KY) Ronald Allen Jr/Gerald Bennett


Chance of Luck is the grey above

The local Oldsmar connections will try to pull the upset in the Sam F. Davis by adding blinkers and having a December win over the unique Tampa Bay surface can’t be dismissed. An interesting note, this horse actually debuted for a tag at Laurel for these owners. The sire is 0 for 8 first time routing. This horse by Skipshot has shown he should take to added ground every step of the way and his sire did very well when adding distance to the equation. It is pretty surprising that none of his offspring have won in their routing debut. The DamSire Alphabet Soup has not been ideal in routing debuts, but has had 21 winners in 218 trys. And Chance of Luck’s dam Winning Chance has had good horses with a number of wins in their profiles. If a longshot could pull an upset, Chance of Luck wouldn’t be a bad spot to step out. The horses pace figures actually fair very well on paper against some of the top contenders, and If they make another improvement in this teams’ second start as a three year old, they could be right in the mix. I would ask for odds near the morning line of 15=1 or higher to take a value shot.


#5 – Six Gun Salute (KY) Pablo Morales/Eoin Harty


Debuted at Presque Isle for Eoin Harty, veered in at the start, steadied, and pretty much lost all chance for the winners circle in his two year old debut. Took a ton of money in debut, so the word got out that this one was the real deal. Without the trouble, they most likely would have won in the first try, instead in this case, it took two tries, they followed up the good debut effort, with a winning effort after having trouble from the gate again, angled out four wide, and surged by to break the maiden by a head at Hawthorne in October. They decided to jump in class drastically after breaking the maiden, went down to Churchill Down before the meet closed, and got outran from the outset with Leparoux in the irons. Shipped down to Tampa for the Winter, started in the Pasco Stakes in his three year old debut, ran very evenly, but came with a late move down the outside to gain ground against a solid group. This may be the type of horse that could benefit from an extremely strong pace up front, and has shown that his closing kick is one of the best in the race. His pace numbers have not been good enough to win with this group, but this horse has never ran a clean race. My thoughts are that they think a lot of this young horse, and depending on improvement in the past month, this horse should make your tickets if you think there is enough pace up front for it to break down. He is an interesting prospect, I am going to watch this race, but I do think this horse has a good career in front of him.

#6 – Wild Shot (KY) Robby Albarado/George Arnold II

Stars of Tomorrow 2 Churchill
Wild Shot seen far left in the picure passed by McCraken in Kentucky Jockey Club, 2016

Robby Albarado rides into town to take a shot for a trainer he has not won for in the past year. The fact Leparoux took the mount on the rail and this one couldn’t get Lanerie or Torres to come in and ride is interesting and must be noted. This horse by the talented sire Trappe Shot ran very well in debut and just didn’t look completely ready at first asking at Ellis Park in August. Came back as a favorite in mid-September and toyed with a field at Churchill, put up similar pace numbers to his debut, but showed much better early speed which benefited him in the final furlong. Jumped up to the Grade 1 – Breeders Futurity at Keenland in October, grabbed the early lead through the half, stayed inside, faltered, and stayed on for a good third in a tough event. He put up the fastest speed figure in the field to this point in that race and showed he can compete at the very top. Corey Lanerie grabbed the mount for the Grade 2 – Kentucky Jockey Club, he grabbed the lead late at Churchill Downs, but was just outfinished late and took a slight step back. He has had time to improve, the solid sire statistics, and this ones ability to grab the lead early at will could play into this affair. If he decides to push forward for the lead against some other fast ones in the race, it could be the beginning of the  end for Wild Shot in the Sam F. Davis. I think they need try and get this horse to rate a bit and take one shot in the final two furlongs. It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to the back class of this horse. If he takes a lot of money, he could be the class of this group. I just have a feeling the inconsistency with this one could have a bit to do with the horses unwillingness to settle down after the break. They may just decide to go for the lead and see what happens. The weird surface at Tampa could play into it in this race. Pay very close attention to the pace bias if there is one in early races of the day. Pay close attention to the route races and how they play out when there is significant pace in the race. If speed is holding, this horse definitely should be in your late Pick 4.

#7 – Tapwrit (KY) Jose Ortiz/Todd Pletcher


Todd Pletcher’s second entry loved Florida late in his two year old campaign. He broke his maiden in his second start in November at Gulfstream West, came back on a sloppy track to crush them all in the Pulpit. It was an impressive victory on an off surface, he didn’t take much of a step forward from his maiden win after having four weeks off, but the pace number improvement from debuting at Saratoga Labor Day weekend to coming back in Florida in November was astounding. It pretty much showed they were not really trying at Saratoga, and that race was used as a prep for the plan in Southern Florida. This is not the type of horse that is going to go gate to wire, it could sit a good trip midfield, and my opinion is that it will be within striking distance off the far turn. At Tampa, getting caught wide can be a death sentence, so the trip that Jose Ortiz gives this one is going to be crucial. I would be a little leery, but I am sure Ortiz will have other mounts early in the day and should have learned by that point. Pletcher isn’t stupid, he brought Ortiz down from New York for a reason, they think they can eat up some Derby points here, and they will have the advantage of being in front of the dead-closers and having good late kick. Can he get the trip?

#8 – McCraken (KY) Brian Hernandez/Ian Wilkes


The likely favorite in the field hasn’t had superior numbers to some others in this group. He is undefeated, has won impressively in every start, and comes out of two key races that produced a number of winners early this year. Ian Wilkes has had success shipping to Tampa, but this one doesn’t have the ideal running style that you want unless they decide to change up tactics tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how forward the decide to push early. They want to save ground into the first turn, but don’t want to get caught wide either. McCraken has liked the added ground in every start and is going to be difficult to beat tomorrow, but I think Tapwrit and Fact Finding both have the pedigree and advantage in running style to do it tomorrow. Winning the Grade 2 – Kentucky Juvenile Cup is no joke, that’s what you want to win at the end of the Churchill season. I think that tomorrow is going to tell the tale for how the rest of the three year old season in Florida goes. There could be a lot of trainers chasing points after tomorrow. And Ian Wilkes could be one of them.


#9 – No Dozing (KY) Daniel Centeno/Arnaud Delacour


The local all-star jockey Daniel Centeno is the guy you want on your horse when it comes to Tampa Bay Downs, he has dominated that surface for years, and you can never rule out any of his mounts. His mount on Saturday, No Dozing broke his maiden at Delaware, followed it up with an impressive first level allowance victory, ran in the Breeders Futurity at Keeneland, had trouble, was bothered at the break, rallied up to third and flattened out, came back in the Grade 2 – Remsen at Aqueduct in November went off at 4-1, but could not finish the closing effort on a course that’s difficult to make up late ground at times. His pace figures put him right in the mix to win this thing, the jockey puts him in the mix, but the running style does not. I still think that No Dozing will be caught chasing Tapwrit and Fact Finding at the 3/16th’s and I am not confident that McCraken nor No Dozing has the kick to make it happen off the far turn at Tampa. I will be closely watching the course tomorrow. It’s important to note. If the track is favoring horses from off the pace, go through this field, and find the horse that gets position and gets the jump on the group that comes from behind. Centeno is a big boost, I think the horse hits the board, but this is a very tough field for Arnaud Delacour.


TOP PICK: #3 Fact Finding


HOW MANY OF THE REST ARE FAST ENOUGH TO WIN THIS: At this point 3,7,8,9 have all run fast enough to win, I would add the 1 and 4 into that group too based on trouble in some of their races.

IN YOUR PICK 4: 1,3,4,6,7,8,9 (Honestly, they all could win depending on the track???)


Have any question tweet me??? @DrDanMinnesota


My bets: $1 exacta 3,7/1,3,4,6,7,8,9 = $12

$0.50 tri-wheel 3,7/3,7/ALL = $27


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