The trail to the 2017 Kentucky Derby takes horse bettors to Tampa Bay Downs this Saturday for the running of the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for three-year old thoroughbreds. This major graded stakes event highlights a strong race card and it is shaping up to be the best of the day with a talented field.
Right now there are six entries listed as probable or possible for Saturday's Sam F. Davis field including a trio of three-year old colts that are considered to be legitimate Triple Crown racing series contenders in this “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race. The following is look at the three entries that I have picked to finish in the money on Saturday as part of my trifecta play.
2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes- Tampa Bay Downs
The Sam F. Davis is a Grade 3 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds and it will be contested on the dirt track at Tampa Bay Downs over a distance of 1 1/16 miles. The total prize purse for one of the early stops on the 2017 Kentucky Derby prep race schedule has been set at $250,000.
Much of the fanfare surrounding Saturday's main event at Tampa Bay Downs is the possible three-year old debut of Kentucky-bred colt McCraken. Trained by Ian Wilkes, he ended is juvenile campaign on a high note with a victory in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs at a distance of 1 1/16 miles. This impressive run past the likes of Wild Shot and Warrior's Club has earned him a lofty rank of No. 26 by Horse Racing Nation along with a rating of 8.22. He also won the ungraded Street Sense Stakes at Churchill in late-October over a distance of 1 mile.
McCraken ran a total of three races at Churchill Downs as a two-year old and this pedigree of Ghostzapper is already a proven winner after taking the top prize in the field all three times.
If you are looking for a solid "place horse" in this race, my pick would be trainer Arnaud Delacour's No Dozing. This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt made some serious noise for himself with an impressive second-place finish to Mo Town in last year's Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 26 at a distance of 1 1/8 miles. He just missed finishing in the money in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity Stakes at Keeneland in early October behind Classic Empire, Looking At Lee and Wild Shot, which is some pretty good company when it comes to some of the top juveniles in the nation last season.
Ranked No. 342 with a 6.92 HRN rating, this is a great opportunity to make an early splash as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender and I believe that No Dozing as a pedigree of Union Rags is up to the task.
Another quality three-year old colt expected to be in Saturday's field is trainer Todd Pletcher's Fact Finding. He has the second-highest HRN rank (193) and rating (7.42) in the probable field and for good reason. While this Kentucky-bred entry will be competing in his first major graded event, he has already proven that he is a winner with three first-place finishes in three races as a juvenile. His biggest career victory came in the ungraded Smooth Air Stakes on Dec. 10 at Gulfstream Park at a distance of 1 mile. This followed a win in a Keeneland Allowance race at 6 ½ furlongs and a Maiden Special Weight victory at Saratoga at a distance of six furlongs.
A pedigree of The Factor with a progeny going back to Danzig, this colt should be able to take the next step in his career over the added distance of this Saturday's race.