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OLDSMAR, FL – The 41st running of the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) is set for this Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. The race drew 12 solid 3-year-olds (plus one Also Eligible) looking to take steps towards Kentucky.
The winner of the race will earn 10 Kentucky Derby points, the second-place finisher 4, the third-place finisher 2, and the fourth-place finisher 1. The Sam F. Davis is the highlight of a 12-race Saturday card at Tampa Bay Downs and will go off as race 11 with a local post time of 5:02 PM.
Bill Mott entered two talented runners, the local Pasco Stakes winner Nova Rags and Candy Man Rocket, who impressively broke his maiden last time out at Gulfstream Park. The stablemates drew side by side; Nova Rags will break from post 8 with Samy Camacho aboard and Candy Man Rocket from post 9 with Junior Alvarado up for the mount.
The classiest horse in this field is the Dale Romans-trianed Smiley Sobotka, who nearly won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) before losing by a narrow margin and settling for second. The Brody’s Cause colt will make his 3-year-old debut in this spot when he breaks from post 5 with Daniel Centeno along for the ride.
Todd Pletcher has won this race more times (6) than any other trainer and makes his presence known with his own pair of runners. Known Agenda was third in the Remsen Stakes (G2) last time out, 1 start after defeating last weekend’s Holy Bull Stakes (G3) winner Greatest Honour. Millean broke Known Agenda drew post position 3 and attracted John Velazquez to ride.
The full field from the rail out: Hidden Stash, Joe Man Joe, Known Agenda, Millean, Smiley Sobotka, Runway Magic, Boca Boy, Nova Rags, Candy Man Rocket, Ricochet, Lucky Law, Last Investment, and Tiz Tact Toe (AE).
#9 Candy Man Rocket – He looks like he’s sitting on a big race after blowing out maiden special weight company at Gulfstream Park, and it’s worth noting that Alvarado – Mott’s go-to rider – chose him over his stablemate. Candy Man Rocket showed in his last race that he can rate; that will be important against what seems to be plenty of speed signed on here. He should sit a solid stalking trip from his outside post and get first run on the leaders as they turn for home.
#1 Hidden Stash – He’s the “sneaky” entry after 2 straight nice victories in the state of Kentucky closed out his 2-year-old season. This seems like the logical next step for him, and with these connections, he’s likely to not get a ton of play. If that’s the case, he could make some noise at a nice price, as this one looks pretty wide open on paper.
#5 Smiley Sobotka – Was his runner-up Kentucky Jockey Club effort for real? We’ll begin to find out here, but with plenty of other early speed signed on, this could be a challenge. He looks like he hasn’t peaked just yet, so he could improve in this spot, and Romans always finds a way to get someone into the Kentucky Derby.
#3 Known Agenda – He seems like a bit of a grinder, which makes him tough to play on the win end of things, but he also has enough class to make him a defensive use. Sure, he defeated Greatest Honour 2 starts back, but he didn’t look good as a well-beaten third in the Remsen. We’ll see if he can progress at age 3; if he can, then he could definitely make some noise here.
#8 Nova Rags – The Pasco winner returns quickly for Mott, who typically takes his time developing horses along the Kentucky Derby trail. This horse looks like he’ll get better with more racing, and while he still needs improvement as far as speed figures go, he seems to be trending in the right direction.
#11 Lucky Law – Will trainer Patrick Biancone win this race AGAIN with a turf horse? He upset last year’s race with Sole Volante, so why not try it again with this colt who hasn’t run poorly in 2 starts, including a maiden-breaking win last time out. Nothing about his suggests that he’ll like dirt, but this barn does well with surface changes, so there’s always a chance.
#4 Millean – It’s hard to throw out Pletcher in a race he’s dominated, but this horse jumps into graded company after only a maiden claiming win; that’s a massive leap. He’ll really have to prove his talent level in this spot.
#10 Ricochet – It took this runner 4 races to break his maiden, which he did impressively over this track last time out. This is a totally different class level for him, though. He needs to prove he can handle it.
#7 Boca Boy – We’ll see if this Florida-bred can step up and defeat open company for the first time in his career. He was a 12/1 upset winner of the FTBOA Florida Sire In Reality Stakes last time out with a gate-to-wire win, but there’s plenty of other speed signed on to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
#6 Runway Magic – This marks his first test around two turns, which seems a bit questionable given his sprinter pedigree. He also was no match for his competition against stakes company last time out, finishing a distant third in the Limehouse.
#2 Joe Man Joe – He’s been well-beaten by a few runners in this field, making it far-fetched that he would make an impact here. His best surface may be turf.
#12 Last Investment – This horse is still a maiden, never a good sign in a stakes this far along. It’ll take a miracle for him to make an impact against this group.
#13 Tiz Tact Toe (AE) – He’ll need someone to scratch before he can make the field, but he probably doesn’t belong anyway. He hasn’t been close to winning in 3 lifetime starts, all on turf.
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