02/15/2010 12:00AM

Rule impressive ontrack and off in Davis

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Tom Cooley
Rule, with John Velazquez up, wins Saturday's Grade 3 Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

OLDSMAR, Fla. - Tampa Bay Downs's Festival Preview Day for 2010 is history, and the 12-race program was full of prizes and surprises, from Woodruff Ridge's $52.80 upset in the eighth race over 33-1 Later Gater, which produced a $1,123.20 exacta, to Rule's authoritative three-length victory in the .

Rule was as impressive during the race as he was in the paddock and the post parade. The Roman Ruler colt is an imposing physical specimen, broad shouldered with a beautiful way of going, and has that extra gear that only the really good ones seem to possess. When jockey John Velazquez asked Rule for run out of the second turn of the 1 1/16-mile Sam Davis, the colt simply dropped his head and motored away from the field through the final furlong.

And while he led throughout the Davis, one gets the sense that Rule has the intelligence to sit in a stalking position early should he be asked to do so. You also get the feeling this strappng colt can run all day. Trainer Todd Pletcher's got another solid Derby contender.

Davis 2-3 finishers still on improve

The second- and third-place finishers in the Davis, Schoolyard Dreams and Uptowncharlybrown, were both game in defeat.

Schoolyard Dreams was steered well wide into the backstretch and raced outside until making a run at the winner leaving the second turn. It was just the fourth start for Schoolyard Dream, who should move forward off the effort. His race strongly resembles the race Musket Man turned in when he finished third behind General Quarters in last year's Davis. Musket Man followed that race with wins in the Tampa Bay and Illinois Derbies and third-place finishes in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

As for Uptowncharlybrown, the colt suffered his first defeat in the Davis, but on Sunday his trainer, Alan Seewald, was anything but disappointed in his colt's performance.

"He came back 100 percent sound, was doing well this morning, and while nobody likes to lose, we feel he got a lot out of that race and is learning more and more with every start," he said.

Uptowncharlybrown made a strong outside middle move in the Davis, then - as he had shown a tendency to do in his other races - seemed to float and hang a bit into the stretch before changing leads and finishing strong. Seewald noted that Uptowncharlybrown ran past the first two finishers shortly afer the finish and said he may see if blinkers will help the colt focus better.

"He makes his move from the three-eighths pole to the quarter pole, then seems to lose his focus for a bit," Seewald said. "We may try him with blinkers and see if that keeps his mind on things a little better."

Diva Delite keeps on winning

Diva Delite isn't a flashy sort, she just wins - and she did that again in the Suncoast here Saturday. The victory was her fourth straight and it came under jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. and for trainer David Vivian.

One Suncoast runner to watch for in the future is C C's Pal, who was almost in valet parking along the outside coming out of the second turn and wound up seventh, beaten just more than five lengths in her first start since being purchased by owner Eric Fein, who also owns Schoolyard Dreams.

* The Grade 3 Endeavour on Saturday lost a good bit of it's appeal when the two morning-line favorites, Lady Shakespeare and Romacaca, scratched rather than race over a turf course turned yielding after heavy rain hit the area Friday.