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Post Time: Derby trail winds down to Tampa Bay

The Derby trail winds down south to the Gulf Coast and Tampa Bay Downs this weekend for the $250,000 Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. The 1 1/16-mile affair will be contested by seven colts seeking valuable Derby points.

Last year’s Davis runner-up Tapwrit, ended up going on to become the Belmont Stakes winner.

The race is worth 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points and is the only one being held this weekend. The big name in the race is Catholic Boy, a Grade 2 winner at Aqueduct last fall.

Last weekend we hit on Audible in the Holy Bull, but missed in the Withers and Lewis, but this one looks as if we may be eating chalk in a small field.

Here’s a look at the entries for the Davis (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):

Race 10 – Tampa Bay Downs, Post Time: 4:52 p.m. ET

1 – Navy Armed Guard (Scott, Castanon, 15-1). Local entry is still a maiden and steps into deeper waters in this Grade 3 effort. Will need more than a solid workout coming into the race to beat this group. Would be a major upset.

2 – Flameaway (Casse, Lezcano, 8-1).  Mark Casse tried two Ontario-breds in this race last year and eventually got State of Honor into the Derby. Another horse we may see down the line at Woodbine in the Queen’s Plate for John Oxley. His only effort on a fast, dirt track was a ho-hum effort in the Iroquois at Churchill. Comes in off a solid win in a non-graded turf race at 7 1/2-furlongs after faltering late in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Interesting, I’d like him better if this were the Spiral.

3 – Vino Rosso (Pletcher, Velazquez, 3-1).  Your token Pletcher runner has a win over the strip in an allowance race with Johnny V making the trip to ride in December. Tough to count out TAP at Tampa where he’s had significant success over the years on the Derby trail. A son of Curlin, to boot. Dangerous.

4 – Septimus Severus (Weaver, J Ortiz, 15-1). Another lightly raced colt who will stretch out and go two turns for the first time. Son of Roman Ruler has Eclipse winning jock in Ortiz aboard, and Weaver fares pretty well routing for the first time. Not out of the question, but likely exotics player.

5 – Hollywood Star (Romans, Rosario, 5-2).  After a solid finish in the Iroquois at Churchill, where he broke his maiden in his first try, he faltered in the Juvy at Del Mar. Romans is high on the son of Malibu Moon, who sired the 2013 Derby winner. Rosario keeps the mount in his first start of 2018. Price is a little too low for this handicapper.

6 – Catholic Boy (Thomas, Franco, 8-5).  Remsen winner has won going longer and beat last weekend’s Withers winner at the Big A. He’s the class of the race and if he relishes the quirky Tampa track, he could run off the page against these. Manny Franco, is an up-and-comer for the LaPenta barn and rode him to victory in the Remsen. The one to beat.

7 – Vouch (Delacour, Centeno, 8-1). Lael Stables sends out the third place finisher in the Remsen, and grabs the local rider Centeno who knows the Tampa track better than any rider in the race. Trainer Delacour winning at a 33 percent clip at the meet. Completes the trifecta at a price.

Post Time Outlook:  1 – Catholic Boy; 2 – Vino Rosso; 3 – Vouch; 4 – Hollywood Star

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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