The Derby Trail comes to Oldsmar, Florida on Saturday with the Sam F. Davis Stakes, the prep for next month’s Tampa Bay Derby. The race is headed by Catholic Boy, a Jonathan Thomas trainee that makes his first start since the Remsen.
Let’s take a look at the field.
#1 Navy Armed Guard (15-1) – He’s a late-runner for trainer Joan Scott that has run two solid figures on dirt, but those low-80s Beyers likely won’t cut it in here. He was beaten by Mississippi, a well-regarded Mark Casse runner that disappointed on Sunday in a Gulfstream Park allowance race. His ceiling seems like a minor share if the race falls apart, and that too seems unlikely.
#2 Flameaway (8-1) – The aforementioned Mark Casse sends out this son of Scat Daddy that is 2-2 on wet tracks, both in off the turf races, but was dusted in the Iroquois after chasing a fast pace. He won the Kitten’s Joy last time at Gulfstream but was aided by the slow pace in there. We’d expect Jose Lezcano to put him on the lead, which should help considering the pace isn’t expected to be too fast, but we just think he’s better on grass.
#3 Vino Rosso (3-1) – This $410,000 son of Curlin makes his third start, second at Tampa, for Todd Pletcher. After being well-bet and taking his debut at Aqueduct, they shipped him here and he won a very slow-paced, and just generally slow, allowance race on December 22nd as a prep for this spot. I wouldn’t read too much into slow time (see Always Dreaming’s March 4th allowance for this barn last year), but he’s facing much tougher horses today and will be a short-ish price. We prefer another, but he’s on the multi-race tickets.
#4 Septimius Severus (15-1) – The often-dangerous George Weaver sends out this son of Roman Ruler who stretches out to two turns for the first time. He was hurt by a slow pace last time at Gulfstream as Impact Player ran away to a seven-length win and an 86 Beyer. He broke his maiden at Aqueduct while wide on a track that favored horses that raced well off the rail (for trainer Charlton Baker and before the transfer to Weaver). We could use underneath, but that’s about it.
#5 Hollywood Star (5-2) – Dale Romans sends out this well-bred (he’s out of G1 winner Hollywood Story) son of Malibu Moon for his three year old debut after scratching him out of the Holy Bull last week. He’s a deep closer that won the slower Iroquois while aided by a fast pace. That said, you can safely toss his Breeders Cup Juvenile race where he ran on the bad inside. We’re against, however. Romans’ horses last week ran like they all needed a race (Free Drop Billy, Tiz Mischief in the Holy Bull) off the bench and he’s a deep closer that won’t be helped by the pace scenario.
#6 Catholic Boy (8-5) – The favorite makes his first start since the Remsen, a 91 Beyer blowout win over Avery Island, who came back to win the Withers last week at Aqueduct. This is just a starting point for Catholic Boy, so we don’t expect him to be fully cranked, though if he runs back to his Remsen, it will be tough for any of these to pull the upset. He’s a short-price, so we’ll take a small shot against, but he’s an obvious A on any multi-race ticket.
#7 Vouch (8-1) – We bet him in the Remsen last time against Catholic Boy and ran fine. While he was beaten six lengths, he drew poorly, was very wide, tracked the honest pace, and faded late. That was just his second start and it came going nine furlongs. Vouch was giving up a lot of seasoning to Catholic Boy, who was making his fourth start and had already run in two stakes (albeit on grass). Granted it’s not a huge sample, but trainer Arnaud Delacour is 6-12 with a $2.18 ROI (per DRF Formulator) on 60-120 day layoffs in dirt routes. We’ll take a swing here.
The Pace – It shouldn’t be too fast. Flameaway likely goes to the lead with Vouch pressing him from the outside. Vouch should get the jump on the late-runners including favored Catholic Boy.
Overall Thoughts – We’ll take Vouch for the small upset. In a multi-race wager, we will use Vouch and Catholic Boy as As and Vino Rosso as a C.