The Road to Kentucky continues on Saturday with a stop at Tampa Bay Downs. The parade of 3-year olds continues in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. The field of 12 will go the distance of one and one sixteenth miles for a purse of $250,000 and pick up a few Derby points in the process.
Let’s start with the rail, and my pick to win the Sam F. Davis, Catalina Red. This beautiful colt has five career starts and five times in the money. He also has two stakes wins to his credit and both were at Tampa Bay. In the Pasco Stakes on December 27, 2014, he sat in a perfect stalking position assessing the pace and caught X Y Jet at the wire after shaking loose. Catalina Red will get his regular pilot, Daniel Centeno, who is also Tampa Bay’s second leading rider and trained by one of the top Tampa trainers, Chad Stewart. Catalina Red was getting a little bit of attention after his win in the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay, but then along came another Red, this one of the Texas kind. The only concern comes from the fact that Catalina Red’s the last two stakes races (and wins) were at shorter distances.
Next to Catalina Red is the “prince” of the bunch, Royal Son. The connections on Royal Son are blinding. How do you create a Kentucky Derby winner from scratch? You could just follow the Royal Son recipe. Let’s start with the pedigree – Tiznow and A.P. Indy, mix in the owners and breeder, WinStar Farms, then throw in a dash of the best trainer in the country, Todd Pletcher, and oh, yeah, put John Velazquez as the icing on top. Sounds like a recipe for Roses. Royal Son is a perfect three for three, but has never been up against stakes company of any kind. He’s currently 8/1 on the morning line, but won’t be there at post time. With all the jewels in this Royal Son’s crown, he’ll probably go off as the even money favorite come post time.
I wouldn’t talk anyone off the 8 horse, G Five, Pletcher’s second entry. Pletcher gets horses with exceptional breeding. G Five is out of Harlan’s Holiday and Flashy Bull and is 4 out of 5 in the money lifetime starts but is coming off a third place finish. Maybe the help of jockey Rajiv Maragh will help get G Five to the Winner’s Circle.
I cannot overlook the number 9 horse, My Johnny Be Good. This horse has four starts and four times on the board. He also had the guidance of Antonio Gallardo, Tampa Bay’s leading jockey. He has over 25 more wins than Daniel Centeno. Gallardo is the Russell Baze of Tampa Bay Downs. The guy just gets up, goes to work and wins a bunch of races every day. My Johnny Be Good doesn’t have the fancy pedigree and connections that Royal Son has but this horse is a gutsy runner and has been training well at Tampa Bay Downs. Johnny finished second behind Eagle at Keeneland in September, and showed the ability to go to the front, lay back and then re-rally down the stretch. You cannot bet against the home team on this one.
Near the outside post is the questionable heavy favorite, Ocean Knight. Other than being the son of Curlin and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, I don’t see the favoritism. Ocean Knight did break his maiden on the first try at Aqueduct on December 13, 2014, but beat a group that was less-than competitive. The benefit may be that he keeps his Aqueduct pilot, the East Coast phenom Irad Ortiz, Jr. However, in Ocean Knight’s first race, the young Ortiz was doing all he could to get to the wire with this erratic colt.
Numbers to play: 1, 2, 9, 11
Best Price: 8 (G Five)