Horse bettors hot on the 2016 Kentucky Derby Trail will have an interesting pair of graded stakes to wager on this Saturday for up and coming three-year old thoroughbreds with the running of the El Camino Real Stakes at Golden Gate Field and the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
I have broken down the field for each of these stakes races to come up with my top two horses to string together as a solid exacta pick.
El Camino Real- Golden Gate Fields
The El Camino Real is a Grade 3 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds contested on the synthetic turf at Golden Gate Fields over a total distance of 1 1/8 miles. The total prize purse for this year’s event is set at $200,000.
The current field for Saturday’s race is expected to be jam-packed with 14 entries listed as entered and the horse at the top of my list for sports picks is Frank Conversation. He may not be the highest rated three-year old in the field by Horse Racing Nation at 5.07, but he could be the hottest following a big victory in this year’s un-graded California Derby on Jan. 16 at Golden Gate.
Along with the home-track advantage from winning that race, this Kentucky-bred colt has a solid trainer in his corner in Doug O’Neill. He also has some solid graded stakes experience as a juvenile with a fifth-place run in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 19 against a very strong field. He also finished in the money in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes on Nov. 29 at Del Mar by taking third.
My second choice for the El Camino Real is Touched By Autism. This California-bred colt will be making his racing debut in a stakes race after opening-up this season with a victory in a Maiden Special Weight race at Santa Anita on Jan. 7 over a distance of a mile. This will be his first test at a distance of greater than a mile, but he appears to have a racing style and stamina that can handle the extra length of this race.
Trained by Marcia Stortz, Touched By Autism should also have a huge home-track advantage for Saturday’s race. He competed four times at Golden Gate as a juvenile in MSW events and he placed in the money each time including three-straight second-place finishes in his final three races of 2015.
Sam F. Davis Stakes- Tampa Bay Downs
The Sam F. Davis is another Grade 3 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds with a prize purse of $250,000. It will be contested on the dirt track at Tampa Bay Downs over a distance of 1/16 miles.
There are seven horses listed as entered for Saturday’s Sam F. Davis and it should be a strong field with five of the entries rated by HRN. My top pick to win in this deep field and beat the sports odds would be Destin. He is one of two horses entered in Saturday’s race that is trained by Todd Pletcher and famed jockey John Velazquez is slated to get the ride. This three-year old Kentucky bred colt opened his racing career in strong fashion with a victory in a MSW race at Belmont on Oct. 11. He followed this up with a second-place run in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park in late December to close-out his juvenile campaign.
The main reason I am high on Destin as my top choice for this race is the promise that he showed in a fourth-place run on Jan. 16 in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes in his three-year old debut. This race was contested over a distance of 1 mile 70 yards and he competed against a very strong field that included Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready.
This is going to be a tight race right to the wire, but I like Rafting to finish in the money as my second choice. Trained by Graham Motion and ridden by Edgar Prado, this three-year old Kentucky bred colt wrapped-up his juvenile season on a very strong note with a victory in the non-graded Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream Park West on Nov. 28 over a distance of a mile. Prior to that, he placed third in an Allowance race at Keeneland in mid-October over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
This could be an interesting horse to watch with a progeny that traces back to Unbridled and a pedigree that goes to Tabit. I also like the fact that he has finished in the money in his last three races.