Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sam F. Davis Stakes – Handicapping the Race


Tampa Bay Starting Gate During the past 30 editions of the Sam F. Davis Stakes, several horses who have won or placed in the race have continued on to do well either on the Triple Crown trail or in the top mid-summer races. Blue Grass Cat later finished second in both the 2006 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. A year later, Any Given Saturday won the Haskell Invitational (G-1), and the following year, Musket Man was third in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. In 2031, this prep race for the Tampa Bay Derby was removed as a Kentucky Derby Points Qualifier and we’ve seen a loss in quality in the last two fields.

That hasn’t stopped twelve hopefuls from entering this year’s 1 1/16 mile Grade Three event. The field consists of the usual last out maiden winners, optional claimers looking for blacktype and some listed stakes runners. Nine of the twelve colts won or placed in their last start.

The Favorites

AMI'S FLATTER (Flatter - Galloping Ami, by Victory Gallop) made up ground in the one mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream last time out, finishing second by 1 ¾ lengths to the speedy Bluegrass Singer. That one came back to finish third recently in the Holy Bull Stakes (G-2). Ami’s Flatter should excel with distance. He’s a half brother to ARAGORN AMI, who won the Martha Washington Stakes. Ami’s Flatter’s dam is an unraced full sister to stakes winner VICTORIOUS AMI, dam of multiple stakes winner AMI’S HOLIDAY, a winner from 1 1/16 miles to 1 ½ miles. Ami’s Flatter came back to work a post-race bullet and should be ready to take a step forward.


CATALINA RED (Munnings - Lovely Dream, by Freud) has speed on the rail. He showed his love for the Tampa circuit winning both of his starts at the track. The son of Munnings won his maiden while setting a stakes record of 1:09.32 for six furlongs in the Inaugural Stakes, winning by 7 ¼ lengths. Next out, Catalina Red sat slightly off of the pace in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes before beating eventual Hutcheson Stakes runner-up X Y Jet in a track record time of 1:21.40. Catalina Red’s pedigree is speed oriented. His sire’s progeny haven’t won beyond a mile seventy yards. Damsire Freud, a full brother to Giant’s Causeway, offers some stamina, but Catalina Red’s distaff line is primarily sprinter/miler oriented. He’s a half brother to Whisky Bravo, a stakes placed turf sprinter and Catalina Red’s first five dams all own minor blacktype. The Chad Stewart barn is 0-7 in graded stakes.


OCEAN KNIGHT (Curlin - Ocean Goddess, by Stormy Atlantic) Ocean Knight made short work of a herd of maidens running six furlongs at Aqueduct last month in a sharp 1:11.94, while being geared down. Ocean Knight’s sire two-time Horse of the Year Curlin is making his mark as one of the best studs in America. Ocean Knight’s dam is a half sister to the stakes winning sprinter LIBBY'S HALO  and stakes placed Mister Alimony. Conditioned by Kiaran McLaughlin, Ocean Knight had a strong four furlong breeze at Palm Meadows in his last work.


MY JOHNNY BE GOOD (Colonel John - Im So Fine, by Elusive Quality) flashed his love for Tampa in a big way with a 14 length win over optional claimers in a swift 1:09.33 for six furlongs. He’s Crittenden’s stablemate and appears to be better placed here. There’s little blacktype in My Johnny Be Good’s first two generations, but he has hails from the same family as Grade 1 winning sprinter THE LUMBER GUY. The colt worked a pre-race bullet and should improve in his second start off of a layoff.


ROYAL SON (Tiznow - Mama Nadine, by A.P. Indy) won his maiden last out upon disqualification of the winner. The Todd Pletcher trainee has the pedigree of a late-bloomer and should love Classic distances. Royal Son’s dam MAMA NADINE won a stakes race at one mile seventy yards. Royal Son’s second dam COUNTESS DIANA was a Champion Two Year Old Filly. In five of the last nine years, Todd Pletcher has won the Sam Davis Stakes, including last year with VINCEREMOS.

Long Shots Worth a Look

DIVINING ROD (Tapit - Precious Kitten, by Catienus) won his debut in an off the turf mile contest at Laurel. Next time out against Crittenden, Divining Rod was stuck on the inside and wasn’t able to get a clear run until late. His dam is a multiple Grade 1 winner on the lawn and a full sister to Champion Turf Horse and sire KITTEN’S JOY. A half sister to Precious Kitten bore Champion Two Year Old Filly DREAMING OF ANNA, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G-1) over dirt and the Summer Stakes (G-3) over turf. By the hot sire Tapit, Divining Rod could develop into a versatile, top-class runner.


COOMER (Midshipman - Dixie Satin, by Dynaformer) picked a tough place to make his first start of the year. He won impressively against $50,000 claimers last November at Churchill going 1 1/16 miles. He has a speed over stamina pedigree and there’s some minor blacktype in the second generation of his distaff line. Coomer breezed a pre-race five furlong bullet. I always respect entries from the Maker barn and Leparoux stays on the colt. Could be something here.


CRITTENDEN (Distorted Humor - Calla Lily, by Pulpit) won his last two races at Tampa, including a 2 ¼ length score over Divining Rod last time out. What’s not to like? The Eoin Harty conditioned colt was trounced 17 lengths in his only dirt start. This colt’s future appears to be on the turf, but naturally, when one has an aspiring three year old at this time of year, it never hurts to take a shot in a Derby prep. He’s a half brother to the G-2 stakes placed turf runner Side Road. Crittenden’s dam is multiple stakes placed over the lawn and was unplaced in three starts on dirt. She’s a half sister to Arlington Million (G-1) hero HARDEST CORE. Yes, Crittenden worked a second to last bullet on the dirt, however, a controlled work on dirt cannot emulate race conditions.


BANDAGES (Any Given Saturday - Beauty Is, by Personal Flag) is Catalina Red’s less accomplished stablemate. He won his maiden at Tampa and has two five furlong works under his girth. Four of his six half siblings own blacktype, including the multiple stakes veterans WAYZATA BAY and YOURNOTTHEBOSSOFME. Bandages should enjoy the distance, but his late pace speed figures are poor.


BROTHER BOBO (Kantharos - Private Prom Party, by Private Terms) was a distant sixth when stretching out to a mile against stakes company in the Mucho Macho Man. Freshman sire Kantharos is getting offspring who are showing distance limitations past a mile. Brother Bobo is a half brother to the talented stakes winning sprinter RIBO BOBO and stakes placed sprinter Private Money Game. The trainer/jockey combo of Servis and Saez are 0-10.


G FIVE (Flashy Bull - Fly Don't Drive, by Harlan's Holiday) can’t beat optional claimers at Gulfstream or Gulfstream West. Despite this race being at Tampa, there’s a solid field in the Sam Davis and G Five is outclassed on paper. G Five’s dam is a half to a multiple Grade 3 sprinter and another half sister bore Del Mar Oaks heroine SUMMER SOIREE. G Five hasn’t shown much speed and this seems to be an odd place for the Pletcher trainee.


BEARS PERSONALITY (Awesome Again - Yearly Attitude, by Event of the Year) will be tackling dirt for the first time in his five race career. He needed time to get his act together at Woodbine, but he won his last two starts. There is one blacktype earner in his first three distaff generations. Bears Personality has average to good works at Palm Meadows, but his late pace speed figures are poor. He likes to be up near the pace and will be forced to go wide from his outside post.


Only two of the last ten winners of the Sam Davis Stakes won over the track last time out. Front runners and pace pressers have had the most success in the race. The rail is winning at 17% this meet.




#5 DIVINING ROD – longshot play