It’s not often that once received, a birthday present continues to keep on giving. But that is exactly what happened Feb. 8 at Tampa Bay Downs when 3-year-old Sole Volante closed powerfully to win the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes.
“I bought the horse for [my daughter’s] birthday last year when she turned 22,” said trainer Patrick Biancone, whose daughter Andie Biancone now owns Sole Volante in partnership with Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Limelight Stables Corp. “I told her when I saw him, ‘If he brings less than $22,000, I’ll buy it,’ so I bought it for her.”
Consigned by New Hope AB to the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sale April sale of 2-year-olds in training, Sole Volante sold to Biancone for exactly $22,000. With Saturday’s win, the Karakontie gelding has now earned $196,310 as well as something even more precious — 10 points on the 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Making only his second start on dirt in a four-race career, Sole Volante broke from post-position two in the Sam Davis under Luca Panici. Chapalu and Daniel Centeno took the early lead from the outside post at the onset but managed to hold the lead only through the first quarter mile before waning.
Premier Star made up ground between foes on the backstretch and was a head in front of Chapalu as the half-mile went in : 46.52.
Last out Jerome Stakes winner Independence Hall challenged for the lead at the break but was squeezed out and settled just off the rail in third. Jockey Jose Ortiz took the Constitution colt in hand and conceded the lead through the first turn, biding his time. The pair made their move rounding the far turn and were a half-length in front heading into the stretch.
Sole Volante settled in fifth through a half-mile, more than 15 lengths off the pace., He split horses on the backstretch and launched a sustained rally through the turn before setting his sights on the lead in deep stretch. Switched to the outside of Independence Hall by Panici, Sole Volante wrested command from his remaining rival inside the final furlong and pulled clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths.
The final time for the 1 1/16-mile race was 1:42.60 on a fast track.
“We knew from the beginning that he’s a good horse who is very smart and very intelligent,” Panici said. “I was just following instructions, waiting, and when I asked he kicked. I never ever had a doubt [I would catch the favorite].”
Independence Hall held on for second, 11 1/4 lengths ahead of Ajaaweed in third. Tiz Rye Time took fourth. For their efforts, the top four finishers earned qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 scale on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
“It was a great race,” said Biancone. “He’s a great horse and we love him a lot.”
Like his sire, Sole Volante showed early promise on the turf, breaking his maiden on debut at Gulfstream Park West before jumping up next out to win the Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park on the grass to close out his freshman season.
But with a new year and the promise of a new classic season, Biancone made the choice to shift his budding prodigy to the dirt, sending him out in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream, where he finished a commendable third.
“He’s a fantastic horse on the turf, but in America where life is on the dirt you have to put the turf aside for a little while,” Biancone said. “So I put him in a sprint race in Gulfstream to see if he could handle it and take some kickback, and he handled it perfectly, he just struggled a bit over the last sixteenth. Today, I told [Panici] let him sleep, let him relax, and then let him run the last three-eighths and that’s what he did. He’s a very interesting young horse.”
While Sole Volante may have made his first tentative steps on the Derby trail successful ones, Biancone said he’s taking everything one day at a time.
“We will see how he comes back first,” he said. “The plan was to go to Fair Grounds [for the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby March 21] because this horse has a lot of stamina. We’ll see how he comes back and progresses. At this age, it’s a question of how they progress. I told my partners and my daughter’s partners you can look for [Kentucky Derby] hats, but don’t buy them yet. We’re not there yet, but what he did today was really good.”
As for a possible next start, Biancone was equally hesitant to pin down any plans.
“We have plenty of races,” he said. “In a month, he should improve. Maybe we will come back here in a month. He seems to like the place.”
Bred in Kentucky Flaxman Holdings Limited, Sole Volante is the fifth foal out of the Kingmambo mare Light Blow, who has also produced stakes-placed Light of Joy and Grade 3 winner Explode, who took the 2019 Canadian Derby at Century Mile. Sole Volante’s name, Italian for “Flying Sun,” is a derivative a Karakontie, which also means “Flying Sun” in the Mohawk language.