The big Kentucky Derby prep race last Saturday in Florida was the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. This Saturday, horse bettors are headed to the Tampa Bay Downs for the running of the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes. The field of 10 promising three-year-old colts has been set in what will be a great lead-in to the Tampa Bay Derby in March.
Some of the top trainers in the game have an entry in Saturday’s main event on the race card to add some solid depth to this field. Breaking down the list, the following three entries would be my ‘best bet’ pick for cashing a winner on a trifecta bet.
2019 Sam F. Davis Stakes - Gulfstream Park
The Sam F. Davis is a Grade 3 stakes race open to three-year-old thoroughbreds with a total prize purse of $250,000. Also up for grabs in this 1 1/16-mile run on the dirt at Tampa Bay are qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.
The biggest name in the field is also the best one on the board as the likely morning line favorite. I am going chalk as well on trainer Ben Colebrook’s Knick’s Go as my top choice. This will be the Maryland-bred colt’s three-year-old debut after posting a memorable run as a juvenile. His second-year campaign did not end well with a disappointing 11th-place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24. You can probably chalk that dismal run up to a bad day at the track in sloppy conditions after finishing second at Churchill earlier in the month in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Both races were 1 1/16 miles in length, as was his victory in the Grade 1 Breeder’s Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 6.
The son of Paynter was able to finish in the money in four of six events as a two-year-old to earn the highest Horse Racing Nation rating in Saturday’s field at 7.74. He will break from the No. 3 post in the Sam F. Davis with jockey Albin Jimenez getting the ride.
When it comes to the rest of the field, I have settled in on trainer H. Graham Motion’s Still Dreaming in the place position. This Kentucky-bred colt got an early jump of his three-year-old campaign with a victory in a one-mile Maiden Special Weight race at Laurel Park on Jan. 2. He covered that distance on dirt in 1:38.04. Saturday’s race will be his debut in a major graded event in a rather uneventful juvenile racing season. He closed things out at Laurel on Nov. 11 in an uninspired fourth-place finish in a Maiden Special Weight race at a distance of six furlongs.
Sired by Flatter with a progeny that can be traced all the way back to Seattle Slew, it is this colt’s potential that has me excited for Saturday’s race. HRN must agree with a solid rating of 6.21. He will start this race with jockey Jorge Vargas breaking on the outside from the No. 10 post.
Rounding out the trifecta pick for Saturday would be So Alive coming out of the No. 8 post with jockey Jesus Castanon on board. Trained by Todd Pletcher, this three-year-old Kentucky-bred colt will be making his graded stakes premier. This is on the heels of a victory at Tampa Bay on Jan. 6 in an Allowance Claimer at 1 mile 40 yards. He covered that distance on dirt in 1:41.84. Going back to his juvenile campaign, the highlight was a victory in a Maiden Special Weight race at Keeneland in late October at a distance of six furlongs.
The pedigree of Super Saver is another thoroughbred with a strong lineage that points to high potential. He comes into this race with a solid HRN rating of 6.16.