02/11/2016 11:10AM

Morning Fire gets two-turn test in Sam F. Davis Stakes

SV Photography
Morning Fire wins the Pasco Stakes on Jan. 23 at Tampa Bay.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Trainer Keith Nations said that Morning Fire has always shown signs of being a two-turn horse, and the colt will get the chance to prove it Saturday in the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The 1 1/16-mile race drew a field of seven 3-year-olds and is the key local prep for the biggest race of the meet, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 12.

Morning Fire had a strong juvenile season, winning two races and finishing second in all four of his stakes appearances, including a loss to the well-regarded Bird of Trey in the restricted Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes at Parx Racing in December. Morning Fire broke through for his first stakes victory Jan. 23, leading throughout for a 1 1/2-length score in the $63,500 Pasco Stakes, which covered seven furlongs.

“We’re very excited about him,” said Nations, who trains Morning Fire for Mercedes Stables. “We’ve always thought he was a very nice colt. He ran quite a bit as a 2-year-old, and a lot of the races came bunched up together, which I think is why he lacked that punch. We weren’t too surprised when he broke through and ran big [in the Pasco] because he was training so good, and we knew he had a lot of talent.”

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Nations said he’s confident that Morning Fire can handle his first route race.

“Everybody who’s been on this horse has always thought that he wants to go two turns,” Nations said. “He has a big, long stride. He has shown speed, but he’s not a run-off speed horse. He’ll relax and leave a little bit there for you. I’m pretty confident.”


Morning Fire, by Friesan Fire

Last 3 Beyers: 90-77-73

◗ His 90 Beyer Speed Figure from the Pasco is easily the highest mark in Saturday’s field.

Whatawonderflworld, by Tiz Wonderful

Last 3 Beyers: 78-73-70

◗ He’ll be trying dirt for the first time after winning a pair of turf races and the $100,000 males’ division of the OBS Championship on the synthetic Safetrack surface at the Ocala Training Center.

“That horse likes to win, and I’ve seen enough of him training on the dirt that I would be surprised if he can’t handle the dirt,” trainer Mark Casse said. “One thing about him is he’s a tryer, so I’m not making any promises, but I would be very disappointed if he didn’t run well.”

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 4 Whatawonderflworld. Trainer Mark Casse is 13-1-0-2 with a $0.24 ROI over the past five years going synthetic to dirt in graded stakes with last-out winners. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Destin, by Giant’s Causeway

Last 3 Beyers: 80-66-79

◗ He runs for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won five of the last 10 editions of the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Destin most recently was fourth in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds.

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Gettysburg, by Pioneerof the Nile

Last 3 Beyers: 83-68-72

◗ Another runner from the powerful Pletcher stable, he enters off a front-running 4 1/2-length score in a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 9.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 2 Gettysburg. Trainer Todd Pletcher is 28-5-2-7 with a $1.00 ROI over the past five years in graded stakes following a maiden win with Javier Castellano aboard. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

Rafting, by Tapit

Last 3 Beyers: 77-71-74

◗ He has been training steadily at Palm Meadows for his 2016 debut after winning the Smooth Air Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park West in November.