01/16/2012 11:28AM

Tampa Bay Downs: State of Play to try dirt in Sam F. Davis Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
State of Play is being pointed to the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Could there be another Animal Kingdom residing on the backstretch at Tampa Bay Downs?

Saturday morning, State of Play, a horse with several similarities to the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, breezed a leisurely five furlongs over the Tampa Bay main track in 1:03.

Like Animal Kingdom, who made just two starts as a juvenile in 2010, State of Play was lightly raced at 2 last year, making just three starts. He won at first asking while sprinting over the turf at Saratoga, then jumped right in against graded stakes company for the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes to lead that 1 1/16-mile race from start to finish. Off from September to early November, State of Play drew the tough 13 post in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He held a striking position into the stretch, before fading to 12th in the race won by Wrote.

State of Play, like Animal Kindgom, is owned by Team Valor International, headed by Barry Irwin, and trained by Graham Motion. Like Animal Kingdom did early in 2011, State of Play will move from turf to the main track when he races next on Feb. 4 in the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes.

“We had originally planned on running him in a grass stakes at Gulfstream Park, but he spiked a bit of a fever for a few days, so Barry Irwin and I talked it over and decided to send him to Tampa and see if he could handle the dirt,” Motion said. “State of Play also had a bit of a cold after he shipped to Keeneland last fall, and that probably didn’t help our chances in the Breeders’ Cup. It’s been a bit frustrating that these little things have forced some changes in his schedule, but that’s all part of a young horse growing up. Physically, he’s done well since then. He’s going through the maturation process well and is growing into a nice individual.”

State of Play showed a high turn of speed in his races last season, but Motion doesn’t think his colt has to be on the lead to be successful.

“He’s acted like he’ll adapt to being rated, if that’s what it takes during a race,” Motion said. “He’s really an intelligent sort, and the smart ones will do what’s asked of them most of the time. Hopefully, he’ll show us he can handle the dirt in the Sam Davis. If he can’t, we can always go back to turf, where we know he’s comfortable.”

Keertana prepping for comeback

The multiple graded stakes winner Keertana breezed a mile in 1:47.60 on Sunday morning for trainer Tom Proctor.

Keertana won 4 of her first 5 starts last season, including a trio of Grade 3 stakes – The Very One at Gulfstream, the Bewitched at Keeneland, and the Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs – before going to the sidelines. She is eligible for the Grade 3 Endeavour at 1 1/16 miles on the turf on Feb. 4 and the Grade 3 Hillsborough Stakes at nine furlongs on the turf on Tampa Bay Derby Day, March 10.

Impressions from Pasco Stakes

Last Saturday’s Pasco Stakes left some impressions regarding the future of several of the 3-year-olds who raced in the seven-furlong race.

Prospective looked very workmanlike running down Wildcat Creek and managed to get up late, despite having to race wide from midway through the turn to the wire. Favored Adirondack King looked for all the world like a horse being taught to do his running late, with an eye toward two-turn racing.

Fourth-place finisher Burning Time turned in what may have been the most puzzling performance of the group. Lagging far back early, Burning Time came ripping through the turn like a wild horse and then was swung out sharply at the top of the lane by jockey Fernando Jara, a move that seem to throw the Burning Roma colt off balance a bit and slow his rush. He regrouped to be running again along the outside, and if you’re looking for an impressive physical specimen with the potential to go longer and prosper, Burning Time could be your horse.