01/29/2014 3:35PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Cousin Stephen gets a pass from Brown to get into Sam Davis Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Cousin Stephen was only fifth in an allowance last time out, but trainer Chad Brown is willing to forgive that performance and give the 3-year-old a shot at the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Cousin Stephen was a disappointing favorite in one of those rugged first-level allowance races at Gulfstream Park early this month. In actuality, the performance wasn’t that bad, but trainer Chad Brown believes the colt can do better.

[Sam F. Davis Stakes: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

“He scoped with significant mucus in his last race,” Brown said. “I’m just going to draw a line through it and run him in this stake as I had planned to do if he had run better.”

The stakes in question is the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, which starts the Tampa Bay Downs route to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Cousin Stephen, shipping in from the Palm Meadows training center, figures as one of the favorites in a field of eight 3-year-olds in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Cousin Stephen earned a career-high 87 Beyer Speed Figure when finishing fifth, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths, in a Jan. 3 two-turn allowance won by Commissioner, who earned a 91 Beyer and is being regarded as a top Derby prospect for WinStar Farm and Todd Pletcher.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Pletcher also is shipping a pair of horses to the other side of the Florida peninsula for the Davis. He will be represented by Harpoon and Vinceremos.

Other contenders include Asserting Bear and Matador, both restricted stakes winners in Canada last year, and Noble Cornerstone, a New York-bred with a field-high 91 Beyer.

Unlike last year, when the Davis winner (Falling Sky) received 10 points in the newly created Kentucky Derby points system, the Davis does not carry any Derby points this year. However, there is a new $1 million bonus tie-in to the March 8 Tampa Bay Derby and May 3 Kentucky Derby.

With jockeys, and from the rail, this is the field for the 34th Davis, carded as the ninth of 12 Saturday races:

Harpoon, Luis Saez; Noble Cornerstone, Kent Desormeaux; Imaginethatmom, Abdiel Jaen; Vinceremos, Edgar Prado; Cousin Stephen, Daniel Centeno; Asserting Bear, Joe Rocco Jr.; School On a Hill, Ronnie Allen Jr.; and Matador, Julien Leparoux.

Two other six-figure stakes also will be run here Saturday on what is billed as “Festival Preview Day,” when temperatures are expected to reach the high 70s. In those supporting races:

◗ Grade 3, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (race 10): Salto represents Pletcher as a top threat in a 1 1/16-mile turf race that drew a terrific field of 12 older horses. Others entered include Guys Reward, Seal Cove, Golden Sabre, Philly Ace, and Humble and Hungry.

◗ $100,000 Suncoast Stakes (race 8): An oversubscribed field of 12 3-year-old fillies is entered in this mile and 40-yard race, with only 10 permitted to go. Nesso, winner of the Gasparilla Stakes here Jan. 4, runs back among a well-matched field.

First post Saturday is 12:30 p.m. Eastern, with the Davis going at 4:25. Both TVG and HRTV will have coverage and the races will stream live on DRF.com.