01/31/2013 3:40PM

Byron King: Sam Davis key is to pick the right Canadian horse

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Forty Tales should get a nice off-the-pace trip in a speed-filled running of the Hutcheson.

A week after the Holy Bull was the showcase stakes race of the day, another top Derby prep – the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs – is among the most intriguing stakes races this Saturday.

The Sam F. Davis may not have the headline names the Holy Bull did, but it is a deep, solid field and a good betting race – certainly much more so than the four-horse Bob Lewis at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Dynamic Sky, an eye-catching winner of the Pasco at Tampa in his lone race as a 3-year-old, looms the likely favorite as part of an entry with Northern Lion from the barn of champion Canadian trainer Mark Casse. But it is another horse formerly based in Canada, My Name Is Michael, who is the more appealing value-based wager.

My Name Is Michael, 4-1 on the morning line, figures to stick to that approximate price – likely because he has yet to race on dirt, having made all his starts on Woodbine’s synthetic Polytrack surface.

After rallying belatedly to be a close fifth in his debut, he performed quite well – winning a maiden race, running third in an allowance, and then finishing a wide second in the Display Stakes behind Avie’s Quality.

The mere mention of Avie’s Quality is sure to draw a collective cringe from horseplayers who backed him or simply remember his performance in the Jan. 19 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, where he was eighth, beaten 19 lengths by Oxbow.

As awful as that performance was, it would seem to have little bearing on what My Name Is Michael is going to do Saturday at Tampa. It is not as if Avie’s Quality had fired and proved My Name Is Michael wasn’t up to snuff; rather, he just never got involved, likely the result of disliking the move from Polytrack to dirt.

More so than Avie’s Quality, My Name Is Michael has a pedigree that suggests he is a true dirt horse – being by a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner in Macho Uno and having a broodmare sire, Vindication, who also won the Juvenile on dirt.

My Name Is Michael likely performed well on the Polytrack at Woodbine because that was his home base, not because he found it more suitable to his style than dirt.

Two bullet works at Payson Park for his new trainer, Hall of Famer Bill Mott, further suggest that My Name Is Michael is passing his morning tests on dirt.

Gulfstream Park: Hutcheson Stakes

The emphasis is on speed Saturday at Gulfstream for the 3-year-olds, with the seven-furlong Hutcheson the day’s main event.

As is typically the case in a sprint race for 3-year-olds, there are plenty of front-runners, likely ensuring a quick pace. And with a good number of these front-runners more accustomed to running six furlongs than seven, the angle is to shoot for a horse to score from off the pace.

That horse is Forty Tales, an unbeaten Tale of the Cat colt who won at first asking at Aqueduct Nov. 24 before repeating in a Jan. 5 allowance at Parx vs. a surprisingly good field.

In each victory, he sat within striking distance of the leaders and utilized a powerful closing kick on the outside to win going away.

The opposition is led by New York-bred standout Weekend Hideaway, who ran third in the Grade 2 Futurity behind Overanalyze in his lone venture into open company, and Merit Man, the Spectacular Bid winner whose lone defeat in four starts came when second, beaten a nose, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint.

With the former unraced since October, putting him at a potential fitness disadvantage, and the latter coming off a Spectacular Bid score in which he was noticeably tired in the stretch, now looks like the time to try to beat them.

Delta Downs: Premier Night Championship

Nighttime gamblers will want to take a long look at Saturday’s stakes-laden card at Delta Downs for Louisiana breds.

My favorite of these stakes is the biggest of the evening, the $200,000 Premier Night Championship, a race that drew most of the better Louisiana-bred routers in training – horses such as Louisiana Champions Day Classic winner Heavy on Themister and the razor-sharp Lovely Vin.

Neither has to win, though, with Heavy on Themister being unraced since early December and Lovely Vin shifting from turf to dirt, which could lead to regression.

This could leave Get in Da House positioned to run down the opposition at a price. A classy gelding who was twice graded-placed in the spring at Lone Star, he hasn’t been as effective in recent months but starts for a winning trainer-jockey tandem (Wesley Hawley-Miguel Mena) and has two wins in four races at Delta.