Kentucky Derby

Sam F. Davis Stakes Preview: Strongest Running Ever

Tapwrit - Credit - Andie Biancone/Coglianese Photo
Tapwrit (Andie Biancone/Coglianese Photo)

With six workouts on the Tampa Bay Downs main dirt surface since Dec. 31, the Lael Stables-owned No Dozing could possess an important advantage against the other main contenders. But Delacour is leaving nothing to chance in his effort to determine where No Dozing fits in the 3-year-old picture.

“He was a little bit nervous, so we need to paddock-school him again (Thursday),” Delacour said. “He’ll be fine, but he hasn’t raced for a while so he was a little bit edgy.”

No Dozing, who finished second to Mo Town in his final start of 2016, the Grade II, mile-and-an-eighth Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 26, drew the outside No. 9 post for the 37th edition of the Sam F. Davis, which will be the 10th race on a 12-race Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South card beginning at 12:12 p.m.

Eight 3-year-olds will face the unbeaten McCraken, who is ranked second to Irish War Cry in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top 3-Year-Old Poll. McCraken, who drew the No. 8 post, will ship in the morning of the race from trainer Ian Wilkes’ Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach. The Whitham Thoroughbreds bred-and-owned colt, who will be ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr., concluded his 3-for-3 juvenile campaign with a victory in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs.

“He’s right where I want him,” Wilkes said earlier today. “He’s a little stronger and bigger than he was last year and he has trained very forwardly, and he’s sharp. He’s ready to run. Any time you’re in a Kentucky Derby prep, it’s not going to be an easy race,” said Wilkes, an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger for Kentucky Derby victories by Unbridled in 1990 and Street Sense in 2007. “I expect my colt to run well, but it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t win. He’s got to face a little adversity.  As long as we get a good race and are moving forward, that’s the important thing. The Kentucky Derby is where I want to have him at 110 percent. Is he 110 percent now? No, but he’s ready to run, he’s doing well and I’m happy with him.”

The Sam F. Davis is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” event, awarding points to the first four finishers toward qualifying for the May 6 Run for the Roses on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

Top Choice

#8 McCraken –  Last week our number one ranked Kentucky Derby horse was defeated…will it happen for a second time this week?  I certainly don’t think so, but much like Classic Empire last week, McCraken must defeat a field that is better than you might think.  However, all the signs point to McCraken being a very serious horse.  Two races back he defeated Guest Suite easily, and Guest Suite came back to win the Lecomte Stakes.  Then last time out McCraken easily defeated Uncontested who came back to easily win the Smarty Jones Stakes.  Obviously he’ll have to show up with his normal race again today, but his connections are confident he will do just that.  We’ll see if he can take a step forward and confirm his number one ranking.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#9 No Dozing – The Tampa Bay Downs track can be a little quirky so it’s a huge advantage that No Dozing has been working for weeks over the track in preparation for this race.  That’s a bigger advantage here than it would be at other tracks, and we already know he’s good enough to compete with these types of horses.  Two races back he was fourth in the Breeders Futurity, and last time he was a fast closing second to Mo Town in the Remsen Stakes.  If McCraken weren’t in here this would be my top pick, but I have too much respect for McCraken so I had to put No Dozing second.

#3 Fact Finding – This horse has done absolutely nothing wrong in three lifetime starts.  He’s three for three, and is winning by bigger and bigger margins each time he races.  Last time out in the slop at Gulfstream Park he completely dominated a small stakes group which has catapulted him onto the Derby Trail.  Like most Pletcher horses he’s very quick out of the gate, and with this inside draw I expect him to be on the front end early on.  We’ll find out today exactly how high is talent level is, but we already know there are reasons to be excited for this colt.

Exotic Plays

#6 Wild Shot – Runner up to McCraken last time out in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and two races back he was a third place finisher behind Classic Empire in the Keeneland Breeders Futurity.  I think he’s a very talented colt but it’s hard for me to see a scenario where he turns the tables today on McCraken.  Speed seems to be his game, but there looks to be several others in here that will go out with him on the front end.  I think he’s got a great shot to hang around until the end, but I don’t think he’s a serious win contender.

#1 State of Honor – Tried dirt for the first time last time out at Gulfstream Park in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes and was narrowly defeated by Sonic Mule.  The good news is that was a solid effort trying dirt for the first time, the bad news is Sonic Mule came back to run just a so-s0 third in the Swale Stakes.  However, State of Honor has the pedigree to stretch out nicely, so this two turn event could be right up his alley.  I don’t think he’s a serious win contender, but he’s very logical to finish on the board and help out the tri or super payouts.

Party Crashers

#7 Tapwrit – I’ve put this horse in three different spots since I started writing this preview…honestly I’m not quite sure what to do with him.  This horse has the look of a classic “Pletcher Progression” runner, but none of his races have been overly impressive to me.  Last time out he defeated My Master Plan over a sloppy track at Gulfstream Park, and My Master Plan came back to win at OBS last time out.  Nothing would really surprise me with him today…he could win or he could run last.  If his price is right though he may be worth a small play.

Throw Outs

#2 King and His Court – Has a solid resume coming into this race with two straight stakes wins, but the major problem is those races came over a synthetic surface.  Will try dirt for the first time today which is a pretty tough spot to try it.  Must prove he can run on the dirt before taking a shot with him in a race of this caliber.

#4 Chance of Luck – Was a runner up last time out in the local prep for this race, and two races back won a small stakes over this surface.  Decent enough runner, but this spot is very tough today.

#5 Six Gun Salute – Head scratcher of an entry here as he has never shown that he is up for a this kind of task.  Last time out he finished fifth in the local prep for this race, and two races back was beaten very badly at Churchill Downs.

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