As its overflow 13-horse field suggests, Saturday’s $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) looms as a hotly competitive scoring race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The 1 1/16-mile test will have an impact on this weekend’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager, and yield contenders for the Mar. 12 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
Here are my points to ponder:
1. Will the Kentucky Jockey Club get another boost?
The Nov. 27 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) has proven to be a key race so far over the winter. Seventh-placer Call Me Midnight came back to upset the Jan. 22 Lecomte (G3) at 28.50-1, and last Saturday, Kentucky Jockey Club third White Abarrio romped at 6-1 in the Holy Bull (G3).
If the pattern holds in the Sam F. Davis, Kentucky Jockey Club runner-up Classic Causeway and fifth-placer Howling Time would be prominent in the finish. (Note that Howling Time is now scratched from the Davis.)
Neither really got a trip that played to his strengths last time. Classic Causeway didn’t get to use his chief weapon, his early speed, when reserved just off the early pace, although he still performed well to beat all bar the convincing Smile Happy. Conversely, Howling Time found himself leading in the Kentucky Jockey Club, when he’d rallied to victory in both prior starts.
The Sam Davis gives Classic Causeway the opportunity to revert to a more forward running style. The rub is that he has pace rivals to his inside, with the potential to get caught up going a tad quicker than ideal. And a genuine pace over a demanding surface like Tampa’s is at least as likely to deliver an unexpected result. An over-reliance on the Kentucky Jockey Club form, in this particular scenario, might turn out to be like generals fighting the last war.
2. The Springboard Mile form has taken knocks.
The other recent Derby scoring race represented is the Remington Springboard Mile, with its unbeaten winner, Make It Big. The Florida-bred showed good determination while passing several simultaneous tests – first start away from Gulfstream Park, in open company, and around two turns. But the Remington form hasn’t held up well so far. Runner-up Osbourne and fourth Classic Moment were unplaced in the Southwest (G3). Springboard third-placer Concept was a distant fourth as the favorite in the Riley Allison Derby at Sunland, where Bye Bye Bobby, the Springboard trailer, just missed in a rebounding second.
In contrast, a couple of his rivals bring stakes form that might stand up better.
Shipsational faces a distance question in his first route attempt, but his New York-bred stakes wins garnered 101 Brisnet Speed ratings. And his Bertram F. Bongard S. victory has been flattered. In that race, Shipsational became the only horse to beat Senbei, who’s since come back to win two more lucrative events for state-breds. Shipsational’s ensuing score in the Sleepy Hollow S. wasn’t validated, however, when third Who Hoo That’s Me was up the track in the Remsen (G2).
Strike Hard was overturned as the 4-5 favorite in the Mucho Macho Man S. at Gulfstream. But the winner, Simplification, followed up with a fine second in the Holy Bull. Strike Hard has an additional form tie-in with the Holy Bull, having been best of the rest behind White Abarrio in a Gulfstream allowance last fall.
Although Trademark attempts his first stakes here, the Brereton Jones-bred sports collateral stakes form courtesy of his Churchill Downs allowance win. By Upstart and out of a half-sister to Grade 1 queens Include Me Out and Check the Label, Trademark dominated stakes performers Red Runner and Kevin’s Folly on the Stars of Tomorrow II card.
3. Who’s the best of the Casse trio?
God of Love is the most accomplished of trainer Mark Casse’s trio, and indeed the only graded stakes winner in the field. Yet the form of his Grey (G3) score is rather ambiguous. While he beat a consistent yardstick in Ironstone, the Grey third and fourth – On Thin Ice and Churchtown – have subsequently settled for second as favorites in allowances at Turfway and Gulfstream, respectively.
Also, for whatever it’s worth, God of Love was originally expected in last Saturday’s Withers (G3). Weather concerns prompted Casse to reroute him to Tampa, and God of Love’s turf/synthetic profile could translate well on this surface. It did for stablemate Golden Glider, who stepped up from his debut win at Woodbine to take a Tampa allowance. Volcanic took the longest of the three to break his maiden, ticking that box in his fourth try last out, but he was regarded well enough to try the Hopeful (G1).