Ryan Dickey: Takes A Closer Look at Today’s Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs

(Knicks Go after winning at Keeneland / Photo By Holly M. Smith)

By Ryan Dickey

On Saturday, the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes Thoroughbred racing to Tampa Bay Downs for the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. Race #11 on the card, running 1-1/16th of a mile, ten entries race for their share of $250,000 and points towards a Kentucky Derby gate on the first Saturday in May.

The morning line favorite #3 Knicks Go (5/2) starts his sophomore season following an impressive second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and a not-so-impressive eleventh place dud in the Kentucky Jockeys Club–both races held last November at Churchill Downs.

Knicks Go runs his best when on the lead, and he’ll have a few contenders for the early pace in this race. #2 Going for Gold (20-1) and #9 Well Defined (8-1) should break out of the gate quickly with Knicks Go, as a brisk early pace is anticipated.

Because of his propensity to expend a lot of energy early, and the prospect of there being a lot of pace early on, this is a good race to play against the favorite, while looking for horses to challenge from off the pace. Three contenders could best fit the bill here: #4 Cave Run (6-1), #6 Kentucky Wildcat (9/2) and #7 Five Star General (4-1).

Of these three contenders, Kentucky Wildcat may take the most money at the windows. He broke his maiden last out while garnering an 86 Beyer Speed Figure at Aqueduct on December 1st of last year. He retains the services of jockey Joe Bravo for trainer Tom Albertrani.

While Kentucky Wildcat has been more of a stalker (near the lead) in his three tries at breaking his maiden, expect Bravo to be more patient with this one, sitting further back than normal early.

Cave Run was a beaten favorite last time out, finishing third in a $125 listed stakes sprint at Tampa on January 19th. He finished ten lengths behind race winner Win Win Win, and will once again be piloted by jockey Jesus Castanon for trainer Eion Harty. While he’s yet to try routing and his trainer has a poor record in graded stakes races (1% win rate in 51 previous attempts), expect Cave Run to sit far behind the pace and give it his all late.

The horse that I am backing to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes is #7 Five Star General. While he hasn’t raced since late November last year (winning a $100,000 stakes race at Aqueduct), and has yet to run at Tampa Bay, jockey Jose Ortiz should be the difference here. Ortiz will forgo riding at Gulfstream Park on Saturday to give this Distorted Humor colt his best chance to win for trainer Arnaud Delacour.

Five Star General has been working out well on the Tampa strip and should be around 5/2 to 3-1 come post time–not a longshot, but definitely not the race favorite.

Play #7 Five Star General to win and place. Key Five Star General in exactas over #4 Cave Run and #6 Kentucky Wildcat. For superfecta bettors, feel free to use #8 So Alive (5-1) and #10 Still Dreaming (15-1) underneath.


That’s very, very special to do it at Tampa Bay,” an emotional O’Connell said after Well Defined’s two-and-three-quarter length victory from a charging Kentucky Wildcat in 1:42.70 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth, .26 seconds off 2018 winner Flameaway’s stakes record. So Alive finished a distant third, with the 19-10 favorite, Knicks Go, getting nipped for fourth at the wire by Counter Offer.

“He’s had little things that have happened and he’s grown up mentally and physically, and today he showed up with his game face on,” O’Connell said of the Florida-bred Well Defined, a son of With Distinction by Fru Fru, out of Medaglia d’Oro. “I like this horse a lot and the decision (on what’s next) will be up to the owners (Gilbert and Marilyn Campbell’s Stonehedge, LLC), but we just want him healthy. Maybe the (Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 9) – who knows.”

“His rear end slipped out from underneath him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile,” she said, “and he was compromised on early position when he ran in the Mucho Macho Man and got bottled up inside. He’s a young horse who is improving, mind-wise and everything-wise.”

  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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