The 39th running of the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes is set for this Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. The race has drawn 10 solid 3-year-olds looking to take the next step towards Kentucky. The winner of the race will earn 10 Kentucky Derby points, with the second-place finisher earning 4, the third-place finisher earning 2, and the fourth-place finisher earning 1. The Sam F. Davis is the highlight of a 12-race card at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturdayand will go off as race 11 with a local post time of 5:25 PM ET.
The field’s headliner is Knicks Go, who finished second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall after taking home the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in a shocking 70/1 upset. However, he ended his year with a disappointing 11th in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He will break from post 3 for his 3-year-old debut with jockey Albin Jimenez aboard once again.
Kentucky Wildcat comes into the race as the main challenger after breaking his maiden at Aqueduct last time out in impressive fashion. Not only did that race earn a strong speed figure, the second-place finisher Country House broke his maiden next out at Gulfstream Park in ultra-stylish fashion. Jockey Joe Bravo will come in to ride the horse for the fourth straight time as they break from post 6.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is usually a big player on the Kentucky Derby Trail; however, he has had no such luck up to this point this season. He’ll try to change that in this race with So Alive, who is coming off of an allowance win over this track last out. Jockey Javier Castellano comes over for the mount and will break from post 8.
The full field from the rail out: Counter Offer, Going for Gold, Knicks Go, Cave Run, Moonster, Kentucky Wildcat, Five Star General, So Alive, Well Defined, and Still Dreaming.
#6 Kentucky Wildcat – It may have taken him three starts to break his maiden, but he made it count when he did finally find the winner’s circle. He was part of a loaded maiden special weight event at Aqueduct where he showed solid speed and proved impossible to pass up front to win by a 1/2-length. Two horses from that race have come back to win, and if the speed figure from his maiden victory holds up, then he should cruise home to victory here.
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#7 Five Star General – This seems to be the up-and-coming horse that everyone needs to watch. After struggling on debut, he has been fantastic in two straight starts, breaking his maiden at Laurel Park before winning the $100,000 Central Park Stakes at Aqueduct. Jose Ortiz, one of the nation’s top riders, jumped aboard for the Central Park and is coming to Tampa Bay to ride him once again. He also draws a nice outside post that will give Ortiz plenty of options.
#3 Knicks Go – We get our first look at one of the most established horses in the crop. After an impressive 2-year-old season, we now get to see how he has developed leading up to his 3-year-old debut. There are plenty of skeptics heading into this start; however, he is working out very well with this race in mind from the beginning. He is going to have a big chance in this spot, as it does look like he his ready to fire a big-time effort.
#10 Still Dreaming – This interesting prospect that could play the upsetter here. After finishing off the board on debut while going 6 furlongs, he stretched out to a mile and seemed to blossom, winning by 3 lengths under a hand ride. His pedigree is well-suited for two-turn distances, which means that if he can improve just a bit, then he will have a shot in this spot.
#8 So Alive – Eventually, you have to think that Pletcher will break through with a Kentucky Derby prep win after dominating them for several years. You have to like that this horse has won on this track; however, he must improve from a speed figure standpoint in order to have a shot. Castellano coming in to ride is a good sign, and based on connections alone, you have to respect this horse.
#9 Well Defined – At times, this horse has shown elite talent; however, he has not been consistent enough to give you confidence. Lately, he has struggled against stronger company, losing by double-digit lengths in his last two races. It was hard labeling him as a throw out in this spot, but he really needs to improve here.
#4 Cave Run – He looked very good in his debut start, which enticed us to pick him last time out in the $125,000 Pasco Stakes, but he ran a very distant third. There is no doubt that this horse has a little bit of talent, but he will have to bounce back in a big way in order to have a shot here.
#1 Counter Offer – After breaking his maiden on the turf, he tried his hand in two dirt races, finishing fifth and second. That last race was his best effort, coming in an allowance event behind So Alive, but the speed figure did not come back strong enough for him to compete here.
#2 Going for Gold – This horse is still a maiden, which is never a good thing when running in a Kentucky Derby prep race. He also will be stretching out in distance for the first time. There are too many factors going against him to think that he has much of a shot.
#5 Moonster – From a numbers standpoint, he will have to improve by several lengths in order to have any chance of competing in this spot. He has been beaten by double-digits lengths in each of his last four races while only hitting the board twice in six career starts.