Equibase Analysis: Mott Holding A Pair Of Aces In Sam F. Davis

This Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes is the local prep race for the Tampa Bay Derby four weeks from today and brings together a field of 12 (plus one also-eligible) attempting to become one of the betting favorites going into that race as well as to earn points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.”

Only five of the 13 have ever run in stakes races. Of those, Nova Rags is one of two which are stakes winners, having won the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last month around one turn, not the two-turn trip like the Sam F. Davis. Boca Boy is another with a stakes win, that coming last September in the In Reality Stakes. He is returning from a four and one-half month layoff since that race.

Smiley Sobotka finished second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall around two-turns but is returning to the races following more than two months off and facing many who have run more recently. Known Agenda finished third in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes last December and is yet another coming into the race off a layoff. Runway Magic finished third in the Limehouse Stakes last month at Gulfstream Park, a one-turn race and rounds out those which have competed in stakes before today.

Then there is a trio of recent winners on dirt who could step up to the task. This trio includes local winner Ricochet, impressive nine length winner Candy Man Rocket and Hidden Stash, who is another coming back from more than three months off. Millean won his most recent race last month but in a maiden claiming race so appears a bit overmatched. Joe Man Joe and Lucky Law finished second and first, respectively, in their most recent starts. Both were around two-turns but were on turf so it remains to be seen if they can transfer that form to dirt and improve to be competitive in a stakes as well. Last Investment and also-eligible Tiz Tact Toe round out the field as horses who have yet to break their maidens in seven combined starts.

Candy Man Rocket gets slight preference among three main win contenders in this year’s Sam F. Davis Stakes, although he has never raced around two turns and has only a maiden win to his credit. I think this colt has tremendous upside based on earning a field high 98 Equibase Speed Figure in his nine length maiden win last month sprinting at Gulfstream Park. Considering this will be only his third career start, Candy Man Rocket has every right to continue to improve and that means his opponents would have to improve doubly in order to beat him even if he simply repeats the effort. There is little doubt Candy Man Rocket can do just that around two-turns as a son of Candy Ride, whose has had 12 of his 34 foals win stakes races for three year olds over the last five years. Some of those are big names such as Vekoma and Gun Runner. Then there’s the prowess his Hall-of-Fame trainer has in recognizing talent. Over the last five years, when trainer Bill Mott raises a horse off a maiden win to a stakes race, his charges have finished first or second in 10 of 20 tries. All those factors lead me to believe Candy Man Rocket can pull off the upset in this race.

Mott also saddles Nova Rags, one of just two stakes winners in the field. Nova Rags returned from two months off last month and won the Pasco Stakes at seven furlongs. Although the 85 is well behind the 98 figure his stablemate earned one week earlier, Nova Rags has every right to improve second off the layoff and around two turns. Sired by 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, Nova Rags is out of the Smart Strike mare Wishful Splendor, whose sons and daughters have won 17 of 73 dirt route races, including 2011 Indiana Oaks winner Juanita. To be ridden by Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Sammy Camacho, Nova Rags can take a big step forward in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and toss his name into the ring as a top three year old on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Ricochet is a two-turn winner at Tampa, a claim none of the other 12 horses in this race can make. Stretched out to two-turns for the first time at the end of November, Ricochet opened up by two and one-half lengths in the stretch only to be nailed right on the wire by a head. Improving to a career-best 94 figure which is the second best in the field by far, Ricochet made short work of the field in December when winning by eight lengths. On a pattern for another step forward, if Candy Man Rocket does not improve as expected, Ricochet would be no surprise winning this race.

After that group of three, there are four more which deserve honorable mention – Hidden Stash, Known Agenda, Lucky Law and Smiley Sobotka, each having good reasons to consider them as contenders but each also with slight question marks. Hidden Stash improved to a career best 89 figure when last seen at the end of November, bringing his record around two-turns to a perfect two-for-two. However, coming back from two months off he would need to be in tip-top shape to pick up where he left off. Known Agenda won a nine furlong race in November, the second start of his career, earning an 86 figure in the process. He improved to 88 although a well-beaten third in the Remsen Stakes in December and if this was his second start off a layoff, not his first, I think he would be a top contender. Similarly, Smiley Sobotka improved nicely in his first route and second career start in October to win then finished second of nine in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (with a 90 figure) after opening up by a couple of lengths with an eighth of a mile to go. He’s been working fast but there is always the concern about needing a race before running well enough to win around two turns off a layoff. Lucky Law stretched out to two turns off a runner-up effort and won nicely last month. Both races were on turf so he would need to transfer that form to dirt and improve off the 83 figure earned in that last start. However, trainer Patrick Biancone successfully transitioned horses to dirt on the Road to the Derby last year with both Ete Indien and Sole Volante.

The rest of the field, all who have the ability to compete effectively in this race, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is Boca Boy (78), Joe Man Joe (89), Millean (84), Last Investment (81), Tiz Tact Toe (78) and Runway Magic (92).

Win Contenders, in probability order:
Candy Man Rocket
Nova Rags

The post Equibase Analysis: Mott Holding A Pair Of Aces In Sam F. Davis appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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