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Post Time: Big Derby prep at 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 nine colts, including two nominated to the Queen’s Plate later in the year.

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 McCraken, a Grade 2 winner at Churchill Downs last fall.

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: 4:45 p.m. ET

1 – State of Honor (Casse, Leparoux,). The son of Honor and Serve is an Ontario-bred who we may see later in the year at the Plate. Only one win in seven tries, mostly on Woodbine’s Tapeta surface. A promising second-place finish in the $100K Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream could be a race to move forward on. Interesting.

2 – King and his Court (Casse, Boulanger,).  Casse’s other colt in the race, also an Ontario-bred, comes out of two straight non-graded stakes wins in Toronto last fall.  Not sure if he’s named after his sire Court Vision or softball king Eddie Feigner, but he steps up into deep company here in Tampa. He lost against lesser 3-year-olds in the Grey, but sometimes colts mature as they enter their sophomore season.

3 – Fact Finding (Pletcher, Velazquez,). Earned the highest speed figure in the race  and has won all three career races by a combined 13 ¾-lengths. He’s a son of The Factor, a speedball in his own right, who appears to have passed down the gene to his son. The winner of the non-graded Smooth Air at Gulfstream ships into Tampa for highly-regarded connections. Speed and fade in the deep Tampa dirt.

4 – Chance of Luck (Bennett, Allen, ). Grey colt ran in the local preps at Tampa with some success for local connections. Trainer who is winning at 23 percent clip at the meet puts on blinkers for the first time. Don’t discount underneath to catch a piece.

5 – Six Gun Salute (Harty, Morales,). Son of Colonel John runs on his fifth different track in his fifth career race. His connections will be hoping for some pace up front as he’s a late-closing type. Not feeling it.

6 – Wild Shot (Arnold, Albarado,). Was eye-to-eye with McCraken in the Kentucky Jockey Club before giving way to the morning line favorite in deep stretch. Son of Trappe Shot has the pedigree and tools to be competitive with this group. Sports three straight bullet workouts at Payson Park. Dangerous.

7 – Tapwrit (Pletcher, Ortiz,). The other Pletcher bounced back with two straight wins after his maiden voyage at the Spa. Pletcher has only missed the board twice in 12 tries at Tampa so far during the meeting and he’s known to swing big in the Derby preps. Son of Tapit has all the right tools to be in the mix.

8- McCraken (Wilkes, Hernandez, ). The favorite will mix it up with some quality colts on the quirky Tampa surface. Colts who do well on this surface typically can handle Churchill without a problem. Son of Ghostzapper is the one to beat and we’ll try to beat him with the Pletcher horse inside of him.

9 – No Dozing (Centano, Delacour, ). Centano is the king of the Tampa jockey colony and will be aboard the Remsen runner-up. Well-traveled colt has a decent workout over the surface and is battle-tested, losing by only four lengths to the BC Juvenile winner last fall in a Grade 1 at Keeneland. Wouldn’t be surprised if the son of Union Rags pulled the upset.

Post Time Outlook:  1 – Tapwrit; 2 – McCraken; 3 – Wild Shot; 4 – No Dozing

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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