The Sam F. Davis Stakes @ Tampa

Given the presence of INDEPENDENCE HALL Saturday in Tampa Bay Downs‘ Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, this minor 2020 Kentucky Derby Prep Race will receive major attention.

INDEPENDENCE HALL created a stir back in November when he Won the Nashua Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct with big speed numbers on both the Beyer Speed Figure and Time-form scale.

But some of that luster came off later on when he displayed some pre-race antics, then had to work a bit harder to Win the January 1st Jerome Stakes.

Given his slow-breaking tendency and low Value, the Daily Racing Blog will look beyond INDEPENDENCE HALL in this 1 1/16-mile race, which awards Derby points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.

The Sam F. Davis Stakes is carded as Race 11 with a scheduled Post Time set for 5:29 eastern.  Here then is a closer look at the field with Morning Line odds.

1.  AJAAWEED  [4-1]  Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin.  Jockey: Joel Rosario.  He arguably ran equal to SHOTSKI when finishing 2nd in the Remsen Stakes (G2).  He kept cutting into the SHOTSKI lead with a grinding late move, only losing by half a length at the end. That kind of gradual-moving style works better at longer distances, and now he cuts back to 1 1/16 miles.  At best, there will be a moderate pace Saturday, and he may come too late.

2.  SOLE VOLANTE  [12-1]  Trainer: Patrick Biancone.  Jockey: Luca Panici.  He took some of his turf form to the Mucho Macho Stakes on dirt at Gulfstream Park, and ran a credible 3rd behind CHANCE IT and AS SEEN ON TV.  Given his closing style, SOLE VOLANTE will find himself at a pace disadvantage.  That said, it’s easy to imagine him coming late for 3rd.

3.  ALBERT PARK  [15-1]  Trainer: Michael Stidham.  Trainer: Pablo Morales.  This guy appears in over his head.  He finished 2nd in the Pasco Stakes, a local sprint, but still lost by 5 ½ lengths after fading in the stretch.  He also lost ground in the stretch of the Cecil B. DeMile (G3) over the Del Mar turf course, indicating that a two-turn route is too much for him at this stage of his career.

4.  INDEPENDENCE HALL  [6-5]  Trainer: Michael Trombetta.  Jockey: Jose Ortiz.  He owns a mind-boggling 122 Speed Figure from his 12 ¼-length Nashua Stakes Win, so it may seem silly to go against him… But when INDEPENDENCE HALL returned in the Jerome Stakes in early January, he plummeted back down to a 102.  Yes, he still Won that contest by four lengths, however, it is a concern that he needed to work at all against a weaker field.  His slow break in two of three races also goes in the negative column.

5.  NO GETTING OVER ME  [20-1]  Trainer: Gerald Bennett.  Jockey: Samy Camacho.  In his most recent start, he finished a distant 3rd by seven lengths in the Pasco.  He earned only a 95 Speed Figure in that contest.  His previous two Speed Figures were no faster.  It is notable he broke his maiden by 9 ¾ lengths, and his trainer is aiming high. But this field is too tough.

6.  PREMIER STAR  [3-1]  Trainer: Jorge Navarro.  Jockey: John Velazquez.  In his career debut at Gulfstream, he defeated a talented runner in CARACARO.  Afterwards, PREMIER STAR backed up that performance by taking an allowance optional claimer by 5 ¼ lengths on the same track.  So the talent is there.  Both races came at seven furlongs, though, and now he stretches out to 1 1/16 miles. 

7.  TIZ TIME NOW  [20-1]  Trainer: Ian Wilkes.  Jockey: Julien Leparoux.  His maiden Win came at Gulfstream on December 18th, when he defeated Todd Pletcher-trained CANDY TYCOON.  Last out TIZ TIME NOW finishing a distant 4th by seven lengths in a slow January 11th allowance race on the same course.  Off that effort, he is difficult to endorse for any spot in this Derby trail prep.

8.  CHAPALU  [8-1]  Trainer: Arnaud Delacour.  Jockey: Daniel Centeno.  This synthetic/turf horse is loaded with talent, at least on those two surfaces.  His October 6th Keeneland maiden Win is notable, in that he ran into significant traffic on the first turn and even took up at one point.  Yet, he recovered enough to Win by 3 ¾ lengths, a big margin in turf racing.  The dirt question is a fair one, but if he takes to it, there will be Value.  

Conclusion: Whether CHAPALU has the ability to handle dirt is unknown.  His sire line is fine for the surface, as it traces back to A.P. INDY.  But his dam line is a bit greener.

That said, he owns the right running style, giving him the chance to secure a good upfront position before striking in the stretch at a nice price.

INDEPENDENCE HALL is a deserving favorite and could very well crush them again.

If we can get  CHAPALU at odds  5-1 or higher he is our Win play.  From the outside Post #8, he can follow PREMIER STAR and make his move on the turn.

In our Trifecta we’ll key #8 on top, using #1-2-4-6 underneath.

Best of luck no matter how you play it.

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