Pedigree suggested that Litigate would thrive over a route of ground, and the son of Blame duly obliged in his stakes and two-turn debut in Saturday’s $200,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Yet another promising sophomore for Todd Pletcher, the Centennial Farms colorbearer earned 20 points toward the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Litigate drew attention by prevailing first time out in a Nov. 19 sprint at Aqueduct. In a Jan. 8 allowance around Gulfstream Park’s one-turn mile, he was outkicked by Cyclone Mischief and settled for second. That rival didn’t boost the form when disappointing in last Saturday’s Holy Bull (G3), but Litigate was able to argue his own case in the Sam F. Davis. In the process, he continued Pletcher’s grip on the Davis record book with a seventh success.
The 2.80-1 second choice with new rider Luis Saez, Litigate was asked right from the start to secure position from post 10. He responded to achieve that objective, flashing speed in tandem with Zydeceaux from post 12, before letting the longshot and other pursuers go on. As Zydeceaux rattled off splits of :23.92 and :46.94, he was chased by Champions Dream, Dreaming of Kona, and Groveland. Litigate was well placed observing them all in fifth.
The same, unfortunately, couldn’t be said for 2-1 favorite Dubyuhnell. The Remsen (G2) winner was also sent from the gate and appeared to be gaining a good tactical foothold when he was caught in tight quarters. Hampered and forced to check entering the clubhouse turn, Dubyuhnell never recovered in a toss-out eighth.
Meanwhile, when Zydeceaux reached the six-furlong mark in 1:11.27, Groveland had advanced into second. But Litigate was moving best of all wider out, and his stamina came to the fore down the lane. Litigate drove to a 1 1/4-length decision, negotiating 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.83, on a fast track amid the rain.
Groveland stayed on toward the inside for runner-up honors, good for eight points. Third-placer Classic Car Wash (six points) just headed Classic Legacy (four points), in a superfecta of stakes firsters. Zydeceaux, the Pasco S. winner, was relegated to fifth at a distance possible just beyond him. Next came Laver, who rallied from last; Dreaming of Kona; Dubyuhnell; Prairie Hawk, who had beaten Groveland in a local allowance last out but faded here; Worthington; and the eased Champions Dream. Notah was scratched in favor of Sunday’s sixth race, where he’ll encounter Pletcher’s highly-regarded Kingsbarns.
Litigate’s resume stands at 3-2-1-0, $182,590. Bred in Kentucky by Nursery Place, Donaldson, and Broadbent, the bay sold for $370,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. His dam, the Mineshaft mare Salsa Diavola, is a half-sister to multiple Grade 3-winning sprinter Pacific Ocean. She is also a half to stakes-placed Salsa Star, the dam of multiple Grade 3 vixen Blamed. Litigate is therefore a close relative of Blamed, who as her name implies, is by Blame as well.
With his fourth dam being Grade 1 winner Dance Number, Litigate hails from the black-type rich family of champion Rhythm and 2010 Kentucky Derby hero Super Saver. His fifth dam is champion and celebrated matron Numbered Account, tracing to blue hen *La Troienne.