There are two roads leading out of Florida that culminate in Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. There’s one that starts in Hallandale Beach at Gulfstream Park, while the curtain will rise on a second path Saturday with the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in Tampa.
Taking place on the eve of the Super Bowl in Tampa and awarding 10-4-2-1 qualifying points to the top four finishers, the Sam F. Davis will serve as a launching pad to the track’s major Kentucky Derby prep, the March 6 Lambolm South Tampa Bay Derby.
1. Hidden Stash (10-1 morning-line odds): He’ll be tested for class in his stakes debut after closing out his 2-year-old campaign with a pair of wins around two turns. His running style suits the race and, if he takes a step forward from 2 to 3, he’ll be a major factor.
JOCKEY: Hector Rafael Diaz Jr.; TRAINER: Victoria Oliver
2. Joe Man Go (20-1): He’s also making his stakes debut, but his 20-length loss to Hidden Stash negates any enthusiasm for his chances.
JOCKEY: Huber Villa-Gomez; TRAINER: David Fisher
3. Known Agenda (6-1): He was third last time out while making his stakes debut for trainer Todd Pletcher in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes on a sloppy track. Before that, he broke his maiden on a dry surface, beating Greatest Honour, who won last weekend’s Holy Bull Stakes. If he reverts to his dry track form, he will be a major player here.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
4. Millean (12-1): He’s also trained by Pletcher but is curiously spotted after winning a maiden-claiming race in his dirt debut. He would need to take a big step forward to be a threat here.
JOCKEY: Roberto Alvarado Jr.; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
5. Smiley Sobotka (3-1): He was considered the weaker half of an entry in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes but ran like the stronger half, finishing second. He has worked sharply for his 3-year-old debut and, if he can duplicate his surprisingly strong performance in the Kentucky Jockey Club, he will definitely make his presence felt.
JOCKEY: Daniel Centeno; TRAINER: Dale Romans
6. Runway Magic (8-1): How he handles stretching out to two turns is the key to his chances. He was able to close against sprinters, but that late kick might be softened by the added distance. If he goes off close to his morning-line odds, the reward doesn’t seem to match the risk.
JOCKEY: Julien Leparoux; TRAINER: Rusty Arnold
7. Boca Boy (5-1): Gets a real break here. There’s a field of 12 and he’s one of the few starters who has keen early speed. He used that speed to capture the FTBOA Florida Sire In Reality Stakes in his last start and, if the fractions are soft enough, he could be tough to reel in.
JOCKEY: Antonio Gallardo; TRAINER: Cheryl Winebaugh
8. Nova Rags (4-1): He had a highly useful prep on this main track, winning the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes. He flopped in a Grade 3 stakes at one mile before that but bounced back nicely to win the Pasco. He’s from the Bill Mott barn and is definitely one to watch here.
JOCKEY: Samy Camacho; TRAINER: Bill Mott
9. Candy Man Rocket (10-1): After a dull debut, he exploded in his second try, winning a Gulfstream Park allowance race by 9 1/4 lengths in a fast time. He’s taking a big class jump here while tackling two turns for the first time, but at least his pedigree indicates he’s bred for two turns and he’s worth a long look at his morning-line odds.
JOCKEY: Junior Alvarado; TRAINER: Bill Mott
10. Ricochet (15-1): It took him four cracks to break his maiden and when he did, he did it in grand style by 8 1/4 lengths here at Tampa Bay Downs. His experience on this racetrack is a big plus, but an outside post could work against him.
JOCKEY: Jesus Castanon; TRAINER: Kelsey Danner
11. Lucky Law (20-1): He’s yet to race on dirt but before tossing him from consideration, keep in mind he’s trained by Patrick Biancone, who won this race last year with Sole Volante. That horse was also tested on turf before switching to dirt, so there’s a chance history can repeat itself here. Not a big chance, but at least a chance.
JOCKEY: Robby Albarado; TRAINER: Patrick Biancone
12. Last Investment (30-1): He’s a maiden, which puts him behind the eight ball to start, but an 8 1/4-length loss to Ricochet and the outside post render him a tossout.
JOCKEY: Ademar Santos; TRAINER: Stacy Lane Hendry
13. Tiz Tact Toe (30-1): He’s a maiden who was claimed in his last start and landed on the also-eligible list, meaning he’ll need a scratch in order to run.
JOCKEY: Alonso Quinonez; TRAINER: Bob Hess Jr.
THE PICK: Known Agenda
LIVE LONGSHOT: Candy Man Rocket