Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby – The Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes – By Eric Solomon

A large field of 12 runners has been assembled for the first of two Derby Points races at Tampa Bay Downs. Todd Pletcher has won this race six times, most notably with Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat in 2006, and future Haskell winner, Any Given Saturday in 2007. He sends out Litigate for his third career start in this race, in hopes of adding to his Derby prospects. 

The morning line favorite is Remsen winner Dubyuhnell, who has shipped south for his three year old debut for Danny Gargan. He’ll break in the middle of the pack from post seven in this 1 mile and 1/16 contest. Post time for the local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby is scheduled for 5:18 (ET).

Tampa Bay Downs Saturday 2/11/23, Race 10: The Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes

40 Total Derby points (20/8/6/4/2)

1 – Worthington (20-1 ML): Mike Maker brings this stakes placed son of Classic Empire to the West Coast of Florida, after a respectable third place finish in the Dania Beach Stakes on turf last month. All four of his career starts have been on the lawn, so he’ll be trying something new for the first time. He’s drawn well and he likes to be forwardly placed, so he should be well-positioned with an evenly matched field. He’s sired by Classic Empire out of a Monarchos mare, so from a pedigree standpoint, two turns on the dirt shouldn’t be a stretch. The other foals to race from his dam haven’t done anything of note, but he does have a half-sister that broke her maiden on this course at a similar distance. If he stays around his 20-1 morning line figure, I’d see him as one of the more intriguing longshots here. 

2 – Prairie Hawk (6-1 ML, 175-1 Circa): The best local hope has two starts and two wins on this oval for Saffie Joseph. However, in those two races, he faced a combined total of seven rivals, whereas he’s facing eleven today. While Joseph has been productive with a limited sample of runners at this meet, I do wonder if the connections feel this daughter of Curlin has a limited ceiling. He’s owned by Peachtree Stables and WinStar Farm, both of whom typically send their best runners to Todd Pletcher. Joseph typically keeps his best runners at Gulfstream, so shipping him here, where the purses are significantly lower is also a bit of a concern. On the other hand, he’s a half brother to Quip, who was the Tampa Bay Derby winner in 2019 on this oval. I like the familial connections, he’s never really been tested, and at lower odds, I’ll look elsewhere. 

3 – Classic Legacy (12-1 ML): Bill Mott is coming off a few very good weekends at Gulfstream, and he’s looking to add to his recent Florida roll with this son of Into Mischief, who will be making his first start since December. He’s a half brother to Art Collector, who gave Mott and owner Bruce Lunsford their first win in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup two weeks ago. Junior Alvarado rode him that day and he’ll be aboard today as well. He broke his maiden in the slop at Aqueduct going seven furlongs last time out. Today will be his first try at two turns, which should suit him well. However, his figures are a little bit light, especially in a field this size. The barn is hot, but I’m not sure that will be enough. 

4 – Laver (15-1 ML): I still believe this son of Bernardini is going to have a brighter future on the turf than he will on the dirt. He was foaled by the Grade 1 winning mare, Centre Court, whose biggest win came in the Jenny Wiley on the turf. Her most successful foal to race is Grade 3 winner, Navratilova, who also does her best work on the grass. He debuted at Ellis on the turf and ran a decent second despite finding some trouble. He was off the board in stakes company at Kentucky Downs before trying the main track at Keeneland. He was second that day and went on to break his maiden in his next start on the dirt at Churchill. He was 5th in the Mucho Macho Man last month when going a one turn mile. I don’t see him being very competitive with this level, but I look forward to him returning to  the turf, perhaps in allowance company next time out.

5 – Groveland (12-1 ML): He was a length behind Prairie Hawk when that one had everything his own way in a four horse allowance race here last month. He’s owned by Godolphin and campaigned by Eoin Harty, who typically has a steady string of runners at this Tampa meet. The dam, Lucknow, won her only career race on the turf, and she has foaled two other horses which made it to the track. Neither of them won a race in their career, with all of their races coming on the turf or the synthetic. His lone win came on the main track, and he has shown improvement in his two route races. The odds disparity between him and Prairie Hawk on the morning line is too great, so there could be some relative value on this one, especially if that gap widens. 

6 – Classic Car Wash (20-1 ML): He’s the first of two runners sent out by Mark Casse in this contest. He’s a Florida bred son of Noble Bird that sold for $105K at the OBS Sale in March of 2022, which was 35 times the stud fee of that Grade 1 winning horse. After a dull debut, he came back in a maiden/optional claiming race at Gulfstream where he dominated his seven rivals when going seven furlongs. He came back to win a state bred allowance race on the Tapeta in his two turn debut. This is an ambitious spot, but he’s run very well since coming back off the layoff. He’s likely taking the biggest jump up in class in the field, but I like that Jaramillo is coming up from South Florida to ride. He’s another longshot with some potential in this one. 

7 – Dubyuhnell (9-5 ML, 120-1 Circa): I was a bit surprised to see this son of Good Magic run as well as he did in the nine furlong Remsen Stakes in his last start. He’s sired by Good Magic out of a stakes winning sprinter, Wild Gams. Her other foals to hit the track have all done their best work at one turn. However, he relished the slop in New York back in December and fought back gamely to hold off Arctic Arrogance that afternoon. Danny Gargan brought him to Florida after that effort and has been working him regularly at Palm Meadows in preparation for his seasonal debut. Looking at his pedigree, it’s no surprise that he’s relished the slop in his last two starts. It will be interesting to see how he handles a fast track though. There are some scattered storms forecasted, so I’ll be watching the weather. If there’s rain, I’ll definitely be using him ,but on a dry track, I think he’s vulnerable in this spot. 

8 – Notah (30-1 ML): The longest price on the morning line is coming off a maiden special weight win in a 6 and ½ furlong sprint here last month. His trainer, John Terranova, has brought several live runners to this meet, winning with 6 of 19 starters thus far and another 6 finishing second or third. The dam did her best work when sprinting and her most successful foal to run was an early season two year old stakes winner at 5 and ½ furlongs. I think he’s in too deep here. 

9 – Champions Dream (9-2 ML, 200-1 Circa): He;s the only other graded stakes winner in the field, winning a slow running of the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes two starts back at Aqueduct. Mark Casse gave him two months off before bringing him back in the Pasco Stakes going seven furlongs here last month. He was narrowly defeated by Zydeceaux that afternoon, when going off as the 7-5 favorite. He’ll go two turns for the first time today after four straight one turn tries. Tyler Gaffalione will come into town to ride this son of Justify. I think he’ll get some wagering attention because of his graded stakes win, however,  Ithink that running of the Nashua was one of the poorer versions of that race in recent memory. I don’t love his post in a crowded field for his first two turn journey. I’ll be trying to beat him. 

10 – Dreaming of Kona (12-1 ML): He was put up as the winner of the Mucho Macho Man Stakes last month when Legacy Isle was disqualified for coming out late. That was another stakes race that was on the slower side, and both Legacy Isle and Lord Miles, the third place finisher, did run all that well in the Holy Bull Stakes last week. His pedigree definitely leans to sprints, so I’m guessing that he could struggle in a race like this. 

11 – Litigate (5-1 ML, 85-1 Circa): Centennial Farms and Todd Pletcher send out this son of Blame that fetched $370K at the Keeneland September Sale in 2021. The dam was 0-2 in her career and neither of her other runners that made it to the track were winners. Clearly, he showed some physical gifts that his half siblings were lacking. He did not disappoint his connections when winning on debut at Aqueduct back in November. He ran into Cyclone Mischief in allowance company last month at Gulfstream. That runner came back to run poorly in the Holy Bull last week, but I do believe this one is better suited for a two turn trip. Pletcher has only one winner with ten starters at this meet so far. Luis Saez is going to have to work out a trip with him from his outside draw. 

12: Zydeceaux (20-1 ML, 250-1 Circa): He was the upset winner of the Pasco Stakes here last month. That race was his third career victory, more than any other runner in the race. He’s been a bargain buy, costing his connections $15K and earning $153K on the track thus far. He’s another one that has a pedigree that leans toward one turn racing though. I think the far outside draw makes his task that much harder today.

The Verdict: 1-6-11



I think this twelve horse contest is wide open, even if the toteboard doesn’t agree with me. Dubyuhnell (#7) is the one to beat after gutting out a win in the Grade 2 Remsen in his last start. The runner up, Arctic Arrogance was a little bit flat when running in the Jerome last time out. He’s been feasting on sloppy tracks, and if some of the scattered showers in the forecast come to fruition, I’d definitely upgrade him. However, on a fast track, I think there’s a chance for some boxcar payouts in this race. 

I’ll make a case for a few 20-1 longshots and put Worthington (#1) on top. He’ll be making his first start on dirt after four turf races to start his career. He’s sired by Classic Empire, who was a grade 1 winner on the dirt, and his dam sire is the Kentucky Derby winner, Monarchos. He’s stakes placed on the turf and should be able to work out a pretty sweet trip from his rail draw. 

Classic Car Wash (#6) will be taking a significant step up the class ladder, however, I like how he’s handled his business in his last two starts. He’s won by open lengths on the dirt at one turn and on synthetic at two turns. I think he’s an overachieving Florida bred that is campaigned by a trainer that knows how to win races like this. 

Todd Pletcher is searching for his seventh win in this race, and he’ll try to get it done with Litigate (#11). The draw is less than ideal, but if anyone can figure out a trip from that post, it would be Luis Saez. 


We’ll have coverage of every North American Derby Points Race, along with plenty of coverage leading up to the 149th Kentucky Derby on May 6th, 2023. 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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