Mott: Both Candy Man Rocket, Nova Rags ‘Earned Their Way Into Another Prep Race’

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who sent out 1-2 finishers Candy Man Rocket and Nova Rags in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, said he hopes to return to Tampa Bay Downs with at least one of the 3-year-old colts on March 6 for the Grade 2, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.

“It was gratifying to see both horses pass the two-turn test,” said Mott, who sent his son Riley Mott to Oldsmar from south Florida for saddling duties. “They both ran big races and it looked like they were strong at the finish. They came out of the race well, so I think both horses would be possible for the (Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby).”

The March 6 card will feature five stakes, four graded, worth a total of $1-million in purse money. The other stakes include the Grade 2, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf; the Grade 3, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf; the Grade 3, $100,000 Challenger Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward on the main track; and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf.

The victory by Candy Man Rocket was the first for Mott, jockey Junior Alvarado and owner Frank Fletcher Racing Operations in the Sam F. Davis. Alvarado also won Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf with 4-year-old gelding Get Smokin, owned by Mary Abeel Sullivan Revocable Trust and trained by Thomas Bush.

Alvarado and Mott teamed to finish second with 4-year-old filly New York Girl in the Grade 3, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour, won by Counterparty Risk.

Mott said he would prefer Candy Man Rocket and Nova Rags not square off again in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, run at the identical mile-and-a-sixteenth distance of the Sam F. Davis.

“It would be nice to run one of them there, knowing they both like the track, but maybe we will try to split them up next time,” he said.

Hidden Stash, who rallied for third, also looks like a good candidate for the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.

Candy Man Rocket came into the Sam F. Davis off a 9 ¼-length, 6-furlong maiden special weight score on Jan. 9 at Gulfstream Park, while Nova Rags was attempting to duplicate his victory here on Jan. 16 in the 7-furlong Pasco Stakes. The winner received 10 qualifying points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby,” while Nova Rags, bred and owned by Michael Shanley, earned 4 points.

The points increase dramatically for the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, with 50, 20, 10 and 5 awarded to the first four finishers.

Mott stressed that both horses still have much to prove before entertaining serious thoughts of making it to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve starting gate on May 1.

“I know everybody this time of year is thinking of the Triple Crown, but there is still a long road ahead for that,” said Mott, who finished 1-3 in the 2019 Run for the Roses with Country House (moved up via disqualification) and that year’s Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner, Tacitus. “You just have to take things one step at a time.

“Put it this way: I think both horses earned their way into another prep race.”

The post Mott: Both Candy Man Rocket, Nova Rags ‘Earned Their Way Into Another Prep Race’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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