02/01/2014 5:37PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Vinceremos leads one-two finish for Pletcher in Sam Davis

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Tom Keyser
Vinceremos, under Edgar Prado, scores a 12-1 upset in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Just a couple hours after it was announced that Todd Pletcher has a record-setting 42 nominees to the 2014 Triple Crown, his powerhouse stable was represented by the top two finishers Saturday in the 34th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Vinceremos, ridden by Edgar Prado, found the wire just in time as his Pletcher stablemate, Harpoon, came charging on the outside in a frantic four-horse finish. The winning margin was a nose, with Cousin Stephen three-quarters of a length back in third and Matador another neck back in fourth.

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

Vinceremos, a Pioneerof the Nile colt, is owned by WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing. He returned $26.80 as fifth choice in a field of eight 3-year-olds after finishing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:47.34 over a fast track.

Both of the Pletcher horses saved ground for much of the trip. Always on or near the pace, Vinceremos came through a rail opening when Cousin Stephen drifted after turning for home, edged to the lead, and narrowly held sway. Harpoon, the 9-5 second choice with Luis Saez up, also had a good inside trip before angling out for the drive and was gaining fastest of all at the end.

Noble Cornerstone, the 9-5 favorite, was never a factor when finishing seventh after acting up badly just prior to the break.

“He absolutely freaked in the gate and lost his race right there,” said his jockey, Kent Desormeaux.

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 initiated a new $1 million bonus tying the Davis to the March 8 Tampa Bay Derby and May 3 Kentucky Derby.

Randy Gullatt, racing manager for Twin Creeks in from Kentucky for the day with his wife, Kim, said: “It’s pretty logical, I’d say,” that Vinceremos will return from the Palm Meadows training center for the Tampa Bay Derby.

Vinceremos was coming off a head victory in a one-mile maiden race on Jan. 4 at Gulfstream. The Davis marked his third career start. The colt was purchased for $340,000 in April at the Keeneland 2-year-old in training sales.

Pletcher watched from Gulfstream Park.

Vinceremos, he said, “is still learning. He has a little trouble once he makes the lead figuring out how to close it out, but he's a horse with some quality and to win a race like this in his third start and first time around two turns is pretty impressive.”

As for Harpoon, “he was a little green inside with the dirt hitting him in the face, and I thought once [Saez] got him angled outside he closed really well. Unfortunately for him, when he angled out, they fanned him way out.”

Matador, making his dirt debut, ran creditably and was perhaps compromised by a stretch incident whereby Joe Rocco Jr., the jockey on a tiring Asserting Bear, inadvertently whacked Matador on the head with his whip.

The $2 exacta (4-1) paid $87.60, the $1 trifecta (4-1-5) returned $197.40, and the 10-cent superfecta (4-1-5-8) was worth $114.14.

A promotional ontrack raffle for Tampa fans will also net $100,000 for Ben Wheelock – whose name was drawn immediately after the Davis – if Vinceremos completes that bonus sweep.

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

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch