01/30/2014 2:25PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Sam Davis could propel Harpoon into Kentucky Derby picture

Barbara D. Livingston
Harpoon (left) and Vinceremos, working at Palm Meadows, will represent trainer Todd Pletcher in Saturday's Grade 3 Sam F. Davis.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – The worst-case scenario Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs is the Sam F. Davis Stakes will be a nice, competitive race on what shapes up as a terrific 12-race program.

The best case: The winner of the Grade 3 race will run off the TV screen and right into the Kentucky Derby discussion.

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

All but one of the eight 3-year-olds in the $250,000 Sam F. Davis are still eligible for a first-level allowance, but at least several have shown the potential to make a huge leap Saturday and make their presence felt the rest of the way to the May 3 Derby at Churchill Downs.

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

One of those is Harpoon, part of the Todd Pletcher brigade at the Palm Meadows training center. After three straight runner-up finishes in maiden company – including an odds-on defeat in October at Belmont Park behind Cairo Prince, the romping winner last weekend of the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park – Harpoon broke loose in his most recent start in winning a one-mile maiden race at Gulfstream by 5 1/2 lengths under Luis Saez.

“We really believe the colt is moving forward in his training,” Pletcher said. “Obviously, he’s held some strong company lines as well.”

Saez will be back aboard Harpoon when the gray son of Tapit breaks from post 1. Saez will be among a handful of top jockeys in from Gulfstream for the Saturday card, which starts at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.

Pletcher also will be represented in the Davis by Vinceremos (post 4, Edgar Prado), another last-out maiden winner at Gulfstream.

The rest of the field also ships in from the Miami area. It includes Noble Cornerstone (post 2, Kent Desormeaux), a New York-bred gelding with just two career starts that produced Beyer Speed Figures of 89 and 91, the highest in the field.

“This race will tell us a lot about him,” trainer Wesley Ward said. “He’s trained real well at Gulfstream, and we have a lot of hope for him.”

Others in the cast include Cousin Stephen (post 5, Daniel Centeno), the beaten favorite in a key allowance at Gulfstream in early January; Asserting Bear (post 6, Joe Rocco Jr.), who won a restricted stakes in Canada last fall and therefore is the only one in here not eligible for a first-level allowance; School On a Hill (post 7, Ronnie Allen Jr.), a $3,000 supplementary entry making his first start on dirt; and Matador (post 8, Julien Leparoux), a restricted stakes winner last fall on Woodbine’s turf as a maiden.

The Davis purse actually is $200,000, with as much as $50,000 available for eligible Florida-breds. Imaginethatmom (post 3, Abdiel Jaen), perhaps the longest shot in the field, is the only horse eligible for those additional funds.

The Davis has produced at least one Kentucky Derby starter in nine of the last 10 years, with 2010 being the lone miss. However, 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. As an alternate allure to horsemen, Tampa has initiated a new $1 million bonus tie-in to the March 8 Tampa Bay Derby and May 3 Kentucky Derby.

Understandably, Tampa officials are disappointed with the Davis being dropped from the points schedule, and some allude to a corporate feud between Tampa and Churchill-owned Calder as an impetus to the change, although officials on both sides have declined to elaborate.

The $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby remains on the Churchill points schedule with 50 points to the winner.

The Davis is carded as the ninth race Saturday, with post time set for 4:25 p.m. HRTV and TVG will have coverage, and the card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

Two other stakes also are on tap: the $100,000 Suncoast (race 8) for 3-year-old fillies and the $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (race 10) for older turf horses. Both drew full fields.

After cold and rain here Wednesday and Thursday, a major uptick was in the forecast for the weekend, with mostly sunny skies and a high temperature of 79 expected for Saturday.




Barbara Beaulieu More than 1 year ago
What is the status of someone who the jockey pulled their name for the promotion last Saturday in 9th race.
Jason Kassa More than 1 year ago
Harpoon or Cousin Stephen are still alive on the trail. Regardless, this is a good, solid race.
Jason Kassa More than 1 year ago
Asserting Bear isn't bad either.
ML NJ More than 1 year ago
So, this is really a first level allowance race with a big purse then? (BTW, there are no first level allowance races anymore for two year-olds.)
Scott More than 1 year ago
This race certainly shapes up as a race that probably won't produce any viable contenders for the Derby, but it might turn out to be a fun race to watch just the same.
Michael Cusortelli More than 1 year ago
If $50,000 of the purse can only be earned by Florida-breds, then the listed purse should be $200,000.
gallopingtom More than 1 year ago
Tapit's can't run 1 1/4 ! Why is this horse even on the derby trail? Typical Pletchet stretch out milers who can't run the last quarter on the first Saturday in May. Another gate clogger.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Typical all time hater bs rant. All time eclipse winning trainer. You sound like a fool . #gallopingtool
geno More than 1 year ago
Mark More than 1 year ago
And FYI this race isn't 1 1/4.
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
I agree with you regarding Tapits not being able to get Derby distance...however this has nothing to do with Pletcher. Owners pay a lot of $ for these colts and want to give them a shot at Derby. you never know what you can/can't do until you try...plus America is a free country
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Dan...you are correct. I recall the same thing being said about Bold Ruler's get...
Scott More than 1 year ago
There certainly hasn't been a Tapit that has been able to get the 10F Distance yet, but you never know. And all the preps are under 10F's, so why not run for the money and prestige.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Harpoon has been outworking his stablemate in the mornings . I do agree he scratches here and its just harpoon. I'll take a CS - Harpoon gold exacta if getting 11/12-1 one return. And a small reverse saver with a nice win bet on CS at 5-2 or better.
Mark More than 1 year ago
looks like both Pletchers may go. I will use both under CS in exactas and both on top in small saver exs.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
I hope you had a saver on the two TAP charges, hell of a race!
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Actually, on paper one might get the idea that Harpoon is the class of this field because he ran a fair 2nd to Cairo Prince in his 2nd start. However, there are 2 knocks against him: 1. His stablemate Vinceremos (who I expect to scratch and start in the Hutcheson instead) has better foot from the gate. 2. He shows more distortion in his pace figures than what I am comfortable with if considering a wager. Conversely, Cousin Stephen appears much slower on paper but his pace is unwavering; this honcho runs like a locomotive because he seems to run the same speed for the entire race. Other than Vinceremos, only Noble Cornerstone appears to have any early foot to go with Harpoon. If Harpoon gets out there on his own, he may not be caught. Without somebody hooking up Harpoon in the pace, Cousin Stephen will not have a decent shot at winning...but he sure looks solid at least for the place money.
jttf More than 1 year ago
win star and pletcher have won the sam davis 4 out of the last 8 years. they have vinceremos in here. his sire is pioneer ofthenile. cairo prince has the same sire. vinceremos' dam sire is more than ready. more than ready is the sire of verrazano, who was pletcher's most successful derby trail horse last year. do these angles work ?
Panama Stallion More than 1 year ago
Perfect angles Mr. JTTF Hope you cashed in handsomely.