Kentucky Derby Preview Series – The Grade 3 Sam F. Davis – By Eric Solomon

The road to the Kentucky Derby makes its first stop in Oldsmar, Florida as an overflow field of thirteen has been assembled for the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. The big name that showed up here is Classic Causeway, who was the runner up in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last out. That race has already produced a pair of next out graded stakes winners and he finished in front of both of them that day.



Tampa Bay Downs Saturday 2/12/22, Race 10: The Grade 3 Sam F. Davis

17 Total Derby points (10/4/2/1)

1 – Mr. Rum Runner (20-1 ML): Patrick Biancone brings this Florida bred son of Uncaptured up from Gulfstream. He was a distant third behind Simplification in the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream last month. He’s never finished off the board in five career starts, but this is by far the toughest field he’s faced. I don’t believe he’s shown that he’s fast enough to compete at this level. I’ll be passing on him.

2 – Unpredictable Bay (20-1 ML, 250-1 Circa): He’s another horse that has never finished off the board in his career. However, he’s only faced maiden special weight company to this point. He was a dominating winner last out at short odds when winning at six furlongs on the second Stars of Tomorrow card at Churchill. He’s been away from the races since and this feels like an odd spot to try winners for the first time. I suspect he’s in too deep here.

3 – Classic Causeway (3-1 ML, 50-1 Circa): He’s one of two runners in this race that are making their first start since competing in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club stakes at Churchill in November. This is notable because two horses have already come back to win Grade 3 races on the Derby Trail since running in that race (Call Me Midnight and White Abarrio). This son of Giant’s Causeway was the runner up behind Smile Happy that day after settling just off a quick early pace. He drew even with the leaders, but was no match for the winner that day. He debuted like a good thing at Saratoga at the end of their meet and ran a credible third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity in his second career try. He drew post 13 that afternoon and Jose Ortiz was left with no choice but to gun it from the start and try to wire that field. He was understandably tired at the end of that race, but still was able to hold some decent runners to hold the third spot. He is a deserving favorite, but he feels vulnerable to me in this race. Despite facing better horses, he’s yet to win at two turns. There are several horses that seem to want to be close to the front end in here, so he’s not guaranteed an easy trip. Irad Ortiz taking the mount is a plus, but I think he’ll be overbet in this spot, so I’ll be looking for other options. However, he’s still worth using on the multi-race exotics. 

4 – Golden Glider (12-1 ML, 95-1 Circa) He’s the first of three, six-figure purchases that Mark Casse will be running this afternoon. Of that trio, he was the most expensive, costing Conrad Farms $395K at the Keeneland November Sale in 2019. He came from last to first in his debut when facing a field of twelve at Woodbine in November. He shipped here and came from off the pace again to beat four rivals to clear the N1X condition while racing on dirt for the first time. He finds a field where several look to have their eyes set on making the lead, so he might get a very good setup if he can work out the trip. I think he’s very interesting in this race if he goes off near his 12-1 morning line. He’ll be my top pick here. 

5 – God of Love (10-1 ML, 65-1 Circa): The winner of the Grade 3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine makes his first start as a three year old and his first start outside of Canada. He’s shown that he’s definitely a closer, finding himself toward the back of the field in all four career starts. He’s sired by Cupid, so there’s reason to believe that his form can translate to the main track. His regular rider, Rafael Hernandez, comes in to ride. He’s not impossible in this race as the pace scenario should favor a closer, but I prefer others. 

6 – Trademark (15-1 ML, 250-1 Circa): He certainly enjoyed racing at Churchill this fall, winning both of his races there emphatically. He broke his maiden in a maiden allowance restricted to horses that were purchased for less than $45K at auction, winning by five lengths. He validated that effort by beating optional claiming/allowance rivals at the end of the meet, leading every step of the way. This is a big jump in class for him, and he’s likely to be a part of the pace battle up front, which may hinder his chances. 

7 – Make It Big (9-2 ML, 100-1 Circa): The winner of the Springboard Mile at Remington makes his first start of the year, putting his undefeated record on the line. He likes to be forwardly placed, but showed last time out that he can be effective sitting off the pace. On the down side, the horses that are coming out of that race in Oklahoma, have not fared well in the Derby Points races. The runner up that day, Osbourne, recently finished 8th in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. Jose Ortiz rode him that day and will ride him again today. I think he could be dangerous with this group. 

8 – Shipsational (6-1 ML, 250-1 Circa): He’s a New York bred, sired by Midshipman, who has won three of four career starts in the Empire State for Ed Barker. Two of those three wins were state bred stakes races and he had a pretty viable excuse for his only loss, being roughed up pretty good at the break by a few of his rivals. Luis Saez has been his regular rider, but he won’t be making the trip, so Javier Castellano will be aboard. The fact that Saez is staying home is a bit of a concern for me. He has mounts on a promising Pletcher maiden (Charge It) and a heavy 3-5 favorite in a $100K stakes race (among others) over at Gulfstream, in favor of riding this horse here. Perhaps knowing the depth of the Pletcher contingent gives him the flexibility to pass on a mount like this in a Derby Prep. The horse certainly has a shot, but I prefer others more today. 

9 – Howling Time (5-1 ML, 175-1, Circa): I’m intrigued by this son of Not This Time in this race today. He’s the other horse that is exiting the contentious Kentucky Jockey Club race in November, fading to 5th that day. He was a surprise leader on the front end in that race after being in the middle of the pack at first call when he won the Street Sense Stakes in October. I’m not sure why he was so keyed up that day, but I don’t think trying to take a field gate to wire is going to be his game. He’s worked well for Romans in the mornings at Gulfstream, firing a five furlong bullet work last weekend. Joe Talamo will have to try to work out a trip, but I think he can rebound in this spot. As value goes in the Future Book, you certainly could do much worse than taking a flier on a two turn stakes winner at Churchill at 175-1. Do note that Tampa Bay Downs tweeted out this afternoon that he will be scratched from this race. 

10- Volcanic (12-1 ML, 175-1 Circa): The third entrant running for Mark Casse was a strong winner in his first start as a three year old last month downstate at Gulfstream. He hooked up in a long duel with a highly regarded Todd Pletcher horse, Charge It, who also is running this afternoon at Gulfstream. He won by a hard fought neck, and as predicted, earned a chance to face stakes company next out. He is stretching out to two turns for the first time though, and he has a wide draw while doing so. I’m also wondering if that big effort last month took something out of him. Edwin Gonzalez, who has won several races over the years on this oval, comes back to ride.

11-Strike Hard (6-1 ML, 175-1 Circa): He’s another horse that has done all of his heavy lifting at Gulfstream. He’s made five of his six career starts in Hallandale, all of them in one turn races. His lone trip out of the Sunshine State was to Kentucky to run in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes in September. He was wide and green that day, finishing a non-threatening seventh. Since then, he’s kept good company, finishing second to White Abarrio and Simplification and beating a next out winner (AP’s Secret) in allowance company. He’s a better horse than he was when he made his last foray into graded stakes company and he deserves another shot at two turns. However, he faces a deep field and will have to overcome a wide post. I think you’ll get better odds on him than his 6-1 morning line figure, but I still prefer others in this spot. 

12- Kitten Mischief (12-1 ML): I really liked the debut effort from this son on Into Mischief when he dueled for most of the race and gutted out a neck victory at a one turn mile in an off the turf maiden special weight race at Aqueduct. Jonathan Thomas shipped him south for the winter and entered him last month at the same distance at Gulfstream with optional claiming/allowance company, where he finished a game second. Manny Franco is making the trip to ride him for the first time, and I do think he has some upside. He’s another one that will need to overcome an unlucky draw, so his best chance might be underneath. 

13 (AE) -Little Vic (15-1 ML, 225-1 Circa): If he does draw into this spot, he definitely should add to the early pace situation, while stretching out from a pair of sprints to start his career. He came up just short to My Prankster last out, and that once just came back to win the Grade 3 Swale last weekend. This is a tough spot to try two turns for the first time though. He might be better served waiting for an allowance spot, but I understand wanting to take a shot in a race like this.

The verdict: 4-7-3-12

Tampa Bay Downs tweeted this afternoon that Howling Time will scratch from this race, which is a shame, because I thought he had a decent shot here. That also means that Little Vic will be able to draw in if his connections choose to do so. This is a deep and wide open prep race will several horses that have some definite upside. I think there’s a chance for a lively pace battle, especially if Little Vic does choose to run. If that scenario develops, I think Golden Glider will be very interesting. He’s a winner on the course, beating a small allowance field here last month, but he did it professionally, looking like there was plenty more in the tank. He gets his second start on dirt today and could be rolling down the center of the course late. Make It Big is looking to build off his effort in the Springboard Mile, and while other horses out of that race haven’t fared as well, I trust Saffie Joseph and this undefeated colt in this spot. With the expected scratch of Howling Time, Classic Causeway becomes the lone representative from the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. That race has been the most useful prep on the Derby Trail to this point. There’s no doubt this colt has ability, but you’ll likely be paying a premium if you’re backing him. Kitten Mischief is one to think about underneath if he can work out a trip from an outside draw. He showed a lot of ability in his debut, and may be better at two turns. 

One other horse that is interesting to me is God of Love. Unless his odds go sky high, I’ll likely be watching him in this race, however, at this point, he’s one of the leading contenders for the Queens Plate this summer at Woodbine. His effort in the Grade 3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine was very good. While he’s been working well at Palm Meadows, I’m not certain how his form will translate to the main track, however, I’m looking forward to seeing what he does coming off the bench.


Each week, we’ll have an update on horses and races from the previous week that may produce starters for the 148th Kentucky Derby on May 7th, 2022. Current futures odds from Circa or Caesars-William Hill will be provided as they are available. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.

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