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Litigate won the 2023 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, a prep race for the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1). Is the Todd Pletcher trainee now a major threat moving forward? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Just when a race seems more wide-open than you can imagine, and any one of eight or nine horses seems to have a chance to land in the winner’s circle, along comes this Pletcher fellow to snap you back to reality.
Hall of Famer and reigning Eclipse Award champion conditioner Todd Pletcher won his record seventh Sam F. Davis Stakes in the rain at Tampa Bay Downs, as his 3-year-old Litigate turned in a sustained rally under jockey Luis Saez and held off long-shot Groveland by a length-and-a-quarter to win the Grade III, $250,000 event.
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Litigate picked up 20 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying points after completing the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance in 1:44.83. Another long shot, Classic Car Wash, finished third in the 11-horse field, with betting favorite Dubyuhnell never getting untracked and finishing eighth.
Litigate paid $7.60 to win as the second wagering choice. “I’m very pleased with Litigate,” Pletcher said from his south Florida base after winning the Sam F. Davis for the first time since 2016 with Destin. “He got a good position early and finished well. We thought he would appreciate two turns.”
Saez was able to secure good position in fifth place early, keeping Litigate out of trouble and saving his best for the stretch run. “That was magnificent,” Saez said. “The game plan was trying to break from the start and pick up some spots. He ran from there pretty well and when he came to the top of the stretch, I felt like I had a lot of horse and let him run free and keep going. I had plenty of horse and he was running pretty nice.”
The victory, Litigate’s second from only three starts, was worth $120,000 to owner Centennial Farms, raising Litigate’s bankroll to $182,590.
“It’s exciting to be on the Kentucky Derby trail,” said Centennial Farms president and co-owner Donald Little, Jr. “He just really improved mentally from his last race (a second-place finish on Jan. 8 at Gulfstream) and put it all together today. Luis gave him a really tactical ride. He broke him early, got in there and saved some ground in the first turn and then he moved him to the outside and let him rock.”
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