Tampa Bay Downs joined the Derby trail this week, hosting the Sam F. Davis Stakes, won by the impressive McCraken.
Here is our preview from the race, in which we spelled McCraken incorrectly, a mistake that should not be made, and won’t be made going forward. Let’s look back at the race.
Fractions – 23.63, 47.15, 1:10.90, 1:36.05, 1:42.45 (1 1/16 miles)
Winning Beyer – 95
Winning Margin – 1 1/2 lengths
Pace & Flow – State of Honor somewhat surprisingly went out to the lead and set a pretty decent pace, pressed by Fact Finding, the expected pace-setter, and longshot Chance of Luck. The pace seemed to be at least solid, though not scalding.
On The Winner – McCraken ran well to win and ran like he’s done in his last few starts – sit back, swing out, make a strong run down the lane to get up and win. It was a perfect return – he hadn’t run since Thanksgiving weekend, and he should move forward from here. We know he likes Churchill Downs (he won two stakes there in the fall) and certainly runs like 10 furlongs will be no problem. McCraken tops most Derby lists at this point, and he probably should after Classic Empire ran poorly last week. That said, DRF’s Mike Watchmaker makes an interesting point on Twitter:
That’s a point that I agree with, specifically in Tapwrit’s case, who had coasted in a muddy track, off-the-turf race last time out. It’s worth following when these horses come back (likely in next month’s Tampa Bay Derby), though if you told me McCraken ran a 90, I don’t think my opinion of him would change all that much – he’s a nice horse with few knocks at this point, but we have a long way to go.
The Others – We’ll take these in order of finish.
Tapwrit as noted above improved his figure by 15 points, which seems a bit much, but either way ran well. That said, he saved ground and angled out behind a solid pace. While it took him a few strides to get clear, overall it was a pretty good trip. Considering his previous race was a low-figure off-the-turf race in a weak field, we’d like to see him repeat his last race before we get too excited.
State of Honor ran pretty well, setting a solid pace and holding third while the well regarded Fact Finding faded badly after pressing his pace. We’ll see how far he ultimately wants to go but this was a very good effort. I’d prefer him to the runner-up going forward.
Wild Shot was the one we bet (at a very fair 7-1). He tracked the pace, made a big wide sweeping move as the first to attack the pace, and relented in the last furlong. He’ll have to more forward off the race but it certainly was fine as a return race.
Fact Finding was disappointing, tracking the pace and dropping back seemingly without excuse.
No Dozing was very disappointing. The 7-2 second choice settled back off the pace and had nothing at all after two promising efforts last year behind Classic Empire in the Breeders Futurity and Mo Town in the Remsen. He ran too well in those races to totally give up on but this was unquestionably a disappointing return.
What’s Next (Tampa Bay Downs) – The Tampa Bay Derby is March 11th and the early indications are the top two horses from this race, McCraken and Tapwrit, are likely to return for a rematch.
What’s Next (Derby Trail) – The big Derby points race this week in the United States is Monday’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn featuring Uncontested. There is a points race in Japan on Saturday that would give enough qualifying points to the winner should they choose to come stateside. Also on Saturday is the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, but that race is run on synthetic so its Derby impact is likely minimal.