2013 Kentucky Derby contenders in New York, Florida and California get the opportunity to earn points in their quest to enter the starting gate in the first Saturday in May. Only four contenders entered the Bob Lewis Stakes (G-2) in California.
In New York, eight colts will vie in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes traveling 1 1/6 miles on Aqueduct’s inner track. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has won three of the last five additions of the race, including last year's Withers with Alpha. This year, he's represented by Long River and Valid.
LONG RIVER ( A.P. Indy - Round Pond, by Awesome Again) the royally bred colt encountered traffic and went three wide on the turn in the Jerome Stakes, but he closed to just miss third place by ½ length. He is the first foal out of a multiple Grade 1 winner and he has the pedigree to relish longer distances.
His stablemate VALID ( Medaglia d'Oro - Grand Prayer, by Grand Slam) is a last out maiden winner who also should appreciate the extra distance. He's a half brother to Grade 1 heroine Malibu Prayer, a multiple stakes winner successful from a mile to 1 1/8 miles.
What would an east coast Kentucky Derby prep race be without an entry from the Pletcher barn? REVOLUTIONARY (War Pass - Runup the Colors, by A.P. Indy) won his maiden in his fourth try after stretching out to a mile. The well-bred colt is by 2007 Juvenile Champion War Pass, who sired only two crops before his untimely death in 2010. R Revolutionary is a half to stakes placed runners Ice Road and Tafassel. Their dam is a multiple Grade 1 winner successful from 1 1/6 miles to 1 ¼ miles. This is the female family of Mineshaft, highweight older mare Flagbird, and stakes winning sire Top Account.
ESCAPEFROMREALITY (Read the Footnotes - Queen of the City, by Medaglia d'Oro) fought the whole way in two statebred races, finishing in the money both times. Unlike the above-mentioned colts, Escapefromreality hails from a modest distaff family. His second and third dams are statebred stakes veterans.
SIETE DE OROS (A. P. Warrior - Crafty Sarah, by Crafty Friend) battled through the stretch in the Jerome, only to lose the race by a narrow head. He's the first American stakes winner in his distaff line in two generations and appears to be outrunning his pedigree.
AMERIGO VESPUCCI (Henrythenavigator - Senza Paura, by Fly Till Dawn) adds blinkers after a once-paced third place finish in the Jerome. His pedigree strongly leans towards turf. Amerigo Vespucci's second crop sire was a multiple Group-1 winner in England and Ireland and was runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Classic when it was held over Polytrack. Amerigo Vespucci's dam won her maiden sprinting on dirt, but the remainder of her victories, including a stakes win and Grade 2 placing, came over the lawn. His damsire was a long-winded multiple G-1 turf router.
SMOOTH BERT (Smooth Jazz - Little Bertie, by Devil His Due) leaps into graded stakes competition after two wins in five tries at the statebred level, including a victory in the Damon Runyon Stakes. He's the first horse to earn blacktype in his distaff family in two generations.
The pretty gray CHAMPION BOY (Big Brown - My Amandari, by El Prado (IRE)) takes on more experienced colts after finishing third in his debut, beaten by over three lengths by maidens. His second dam is a Grade 3 winner, but that's it for class in the immediate female family.
Traditionally held in the spring at a mile, the Withers was switched to early February and lengthened to 1 1/6 miles last year.
It's hard to look past the top three, Long River, Valad and Revolutionary. All three have similar pace figures and all three can press the pace or sit farther back, although Revolutionary missed a scheduled work due to weather. Let's go with Long River for the win. He had an excuse of bleeding in the Jerome and gets first time Salix.. I'm not crazy about his inside post, but Long River showed talent finishing second to Remsen Stakes runner-up Delhomme last year in his second start. Amerigo Vespucci adds blinkers after his third place finish in the Jerome. The Tullock barn is 27% with that angle.
#1 Long River
#5 Amerigo Vespucci – longshot pick
Sam F. Davis Stakes
The Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs offers three year olds an opportunity to earn points to enter this year's Kentucky Derby starting gate.
Pasco Stakes hero DYNAMIC SKY will try to make it two in a row in the Sam Davis. History is against his effort, as no winner of the Pasco has pulled off the double. Trained by Mark Casse, Dynamic Sky ( Sky Mesa - Murani, by Distorted Humor) certainly has the opportunity to improve in his second start of the year. Read his pedigree profile here.
Dynamic Sky's stablemate NORTHERN LION ( Lion Heart - Obligation North, by Valley Crossing) wired a maiden field by 5 ½ lengths at Gulfstream Park in his last start. By Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart, Northern Lion will attempt to be the first blacktype earner in his immediate female family. His dam Obligation North is a half sister to the veteran stakes winning sprinter Weigelia.
SPEAK LOGISTICS (High Cotton - Miss Sabrina, by Summer Squall) won the In Reality Stakes at Calder, but was outclassed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He takes on an easier group in the Sam Davis. The Eddie Plesa trainee is a half to the stakes winning sprinter Megalith and his female family is littered with stakes winners.
MY NAME IS MICHAEL (Macho Uno - Graciously Soft, by Vindication) has posted higher BRIS speed figures in every start, culminating with a decent second place finish in the Display Stakes at Woodbine last year. The Mott trainee's works at Payson are much quicker than those at Woodbine, indicating that he'll put forth a strong effort in his first shot over the dirt. My Name Is Michael's dam is a half sister to the multiple Grade 1 router Spoken Fur and to Grade 1 turf sprinter Unbridled's Note.
FALLING SKY ( Lion Heart - Sea Dragoness, by Sea Hero) another son of Lion Heart out of a stakes-placed mare by Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero, won a strong optional claimer in his last race. He makes his first start for John Terranova. Falling Sky's dam is a half to the stakes veterans All Giving and War Native.
DIVINE AMBITION (Divine Park - Window Woman, by Skip Away) showed speed in the Pasco Stakes, but couldn't sustain his bid. Considering that he was making his first start of the year, the second start of his career and it was his first try over dirt, the son of Met Miler winner Divine Park showed talent. Divine Ambition is a half to stakes winning miler Window Boy. The pretty gray colt has been working well at Payson Park.
The very well-bred MIDNITE POPPA (Unbridled's Song - Island Sand, by Tabasco Cat) won his maiden at Tampa in December. The Zito trainee is a son of multiple Grade 1 millionaire Island Sand, a winner from a mile to 1 ¼ miles. Midnite Poppa has been working well at Palm Meadows.
Rounding out the Sam F. Davis field are SILVER DAY, LIGHTNING STONE, and BALINO. Silver Day hasn't hit the board since an impressive eight length maiden win in the slop at Calder last fall. Both of Lightning Stone's victories came over turf and he hasn't hit the board in his three dirt starts. A case of trying to make the colt something he isn't. Balino shows the most promise of the three. The modestly-bred colt won a maiden claimer sprinting seven furlongs at Tampa, then stepped up to win an optional claimer over the turf by a nose. His speed figures are poor, but maybe he can fill out the exotics.
The Sam Davis sets up with plenty of speed. In fact, the only confirmed stalkers are My Name Is Michael and Dynamic Sky. My Name Is Michael has posted two triple digit late pace figures in his four-race career and has run a higher total speed figure in every start. He's prepped with two strong breezes over the Payson dirt. Dynamic Sky has found trouble or lugged in/out, steadied, been off slow, etc. He's still managed to finish in the money in all but one race. Winners of the Pasco have placed in the Sam F. Davis in the last there years, so we have to include him. Midnite Poppa is one of the most well-bred colts in the field and Zito is 20% with horses second off of a layoff.
My Name Is Michael
Divine Ambition – longshot pick