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Derby Prep Preview: G2-Lewis & G3-Sam F. Davis

Two more prep races on tap as we roll one more week closer to the first Saturday in May.  Tampa Bay Downs kicks their three year old stake schedule into gear with the G3-Sam F. Davis Stakes, while Santa Anita will once again try to run the G2-Robert B. Lewis Stakes.  Let's first take a look at the race in Tampa, the Sam F. Davis.

G3-Sam F. Davis
Tampa Bay Downs
1 1/16 miles
Three Years Old

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

ML

1

Rule

Velazquez J R

Pletcher, Todd

8/5

2

Schoolyard Dreams

Velasquez C

Ryan, Derek S

6/1

3

Tristen's Mambo

Goncalves L R

Carwood, Gerry

20/1

4

Middle of the Nite

Prado E S

Albertrani, Thomas

9/2

5

Silver Craft

Castanon J L

Reinstedler, AL

8/1

6

Uptowncharlybrown

Centeno D E

Seewald, Alan

2/1

7

African Moon

Lopez J

Bennett, Dale

15/1

Tampa's G3-Sam F. Davis Stakes is really one of the more compelling Derby preps we've seen so far in the early road to Louisville.  You've got a Pletcher horse (1-Rule) coming off of three front running victories.  A locally based horse that has grabbed the attention of the Tampa patrons (6-Uptowncharlybrown).  And finally, a Gulfstream shipper that looks like he could be sitting on a huge race in his first start at this track (4-Middle of the Nite).

The speed of the speed is clearly Rule as he's led every step of the way in his last three races, two of which were at a mile and the third at a mile and a sixteenth.  Given the way the Tampa track has been playing for two turn races lately that may or may not be the ticket to the winner's circle.  

In the past week there have been seven two turn races run on with the main track labeled either "FAST" or "WET FAST", with only one horse winning wire to wire.  The rest of the winners were evenly distributed between stalkers and closers.  On Friday, the Tampa course was labeled "SLOPPY" and featured five route races that produced one wire to wire winner.  Once again, the rest of the winners were a mix of stalkers and closers, with horses that were fourth or worse at the half mile pole winning three of the five races.

So what do we take from the recent races at two turns on the Tampa main track?  There certainly doesn't appear to be any bias toward speed but it's probably not accurate to say that speed is at a disadvantage, at least when the track was labeled "FAST" or "WET FAST".  The day with a "SLOPPY" track appeared to be somewhat tiring and anti-speed, at least later in the card as there were a couple of low priced front runners that stopped badly when they entered the lane.  

If the track comes up "FAST" tomorrow for the Sam F. Davis, I think Rule makes sense as the likely winner.  If, however, the track is "GOOD" or worse, there is probably going to be a better value play elsewhere in the field even though Rule shows good off-track form in his past performances.  In that situation I would lean toward the Thomas Albertrani horse, Middle of the Night, due to his draw and stalking style.  Middle of the Night should get an excellent trip right off of Rule's backside and will likely be in a perfect position to pounce if the Pletcher horse comes up a little bit empty in the lane.

The local entry, Uptowncharlybrown, won't get much of a look from me due primarily to his low morning line odds of 2/1.  I'm going to need to see him step up his game in this spot before I toss any money in his direction as I'm not 100% sold on where he fits class-wise.  We'll find out tomorrow if he's for real.

 

G2-Robert B. Lewis
Santa Anita
1 1/16 miles
Three Years Old

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

ML

1

Dave in Dixie

Rosario J

Sadler, John

7/2

2

Tiz Chrome

Gomez G K

Baffert, Bob

6/5

3

American Lion

Leparoux J R

Harty, Eoin

9/5

4

Caracortado

Atkinson P

Machowsky, Michael

4/1

5

Tango Tango

Bejarano R

Hollendorfer, Jerry

20/1

I previewed the G2-Lewis last Friday before rain hit Southern California rendering the "All Weather Track" at Santa Anita inoperable.  The re-scheduled version saw a defection of two of the original participants leaving us with a disappointing five horse field.

Speed has not been playing well lately at Santa Anita in races going two turns, which is going to make it difficult for any horse trying to go wire to wire.  Last week I really liked the looks of Tiz Chrome as he's probably the speed of the speed, Baffert has him working sharply for his first start off the bench, and with Garrett Gomez in the irons you're looking at a jock-trainer combo that is hitting at 41% for 2009-2010.  Yeah, 41%.  Even more remarkable is that the ROI is decent $2.13.  But with speed being compromised in routes at the meet, Tiz Chrome is going to have to work awfully hard to take the top prize.

Given the fact that his is just a horrible betting race (at least from my perspective), I'm going to land on the third choice on the morning line, Dave in Dixie (7/2), almost entirely due to his ability to win from off the pace.  Dave in Dixie finished 6th in the G1-Norfolk but was only beaten by two lengths and his trip was somewhat troubled.  Today's small field should ensure a nice, clean trip around the track and a good chance to run down the leaders in the stretch to score the win.