Sam F. Davis Stakes Preview – McCraken vs Fact Finding

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February 11th 2017

This afternoon, we have another interesting battle between two undefeated colts on the Derby Trail in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs: McCraken vs Fact Finding. Both colts are undefeated in three starts. The Sam F. Davis Stakes is a prep race for the Tampa Bay Derby and a points-paying race on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds.

The Sam F. Davis Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post-Time: 3:45 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. State of Honor (116) – Leparoux/Casse – 8/1 
2. King and His Court (120) – Boulanger/Casse – 8/1 
3. Fact Finding (116) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 9/2  
4. Chance of Luck (116) – Allen Jr./Bennett – 15/1
5. Six Gun Salute (116) – Morales/Harty -30/1
6. Wild Shot (116) – Albarado/Arnold – 5/1
7. Tapwrit (120) – Ortiz/Pletcher – 8/1  
8. McCraken (122) – Hernandez Jr./Wilkes – 2/1
9. No Dozing (116) – Centeno/Delacour – 4/1

Race Commentary: As we saw last week, expect the unexpected with 3 year-olds coming into the new year after a long layoff. Fact Finding likes to get out into the early lead and won by 7 lengths in his last start–the Smooth Air Stakes. McCraken has a closer racing style and impressed in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, beating Wild Shot by 1 1/4 lengths back in late November. No Dozing also has a closer race style.

How do I see this one playing out? McCraken chasing Fact Finding and Wild Shot down the stretch. Tampa Bay Downs is a speed favoring track unlike Churchill Downs where McCraken won in his last start. I really like McCraken, the son of Ghostzapper, moving forward but I am not sure this track surface suits his racing style. So an upset of the race favorite seems very probable here. Fact Finding with his inside post-position and early speed may be too tough to chase down.

The safest bet on paper is probably an Exacta wheel keying two horses (McCraken & Fact Finding) to win over three horses (McCraken, Fact Finding and Wild Shot) to place. So 3, 8 over 3,6,8. However, this bet may payout less than the bet itself depending on the live odds and if the race favorite (McCraken) wins. A $2 bet of this type would cost $8.

But please note that trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race 4 out of the last 7 years. He won it last year with Destin. Pletcher also has a great jockey on Fact Finding in John Velazquez who has won the Sam F. Davis 3 times. So you may want to take a shot at beating McCraken straight up in a win bet. 

Let the live race odds and the projected Exacta payouts influence your decision. And I would never bet more than $50 on a race with a lot of 3 year-olds making the first start after a long layoff. And I would only plunk down $50 on a race of this type if I was more sure about the horses in the field than this one.

News: Classic Empire Has Foot Abscess

In my previous blog, on Classic Empire’s performance in the Holy Bull Staktes, I noted that I thought that he might have been bothered by a slight ailment of some sort that couldn’t easily be detected post-race. Whoot there it is! This was confirmed in an interview with trainer Mark Casse by Bill Finley for the Thoroughbred Daily News later in the day that I published my last blog.

Casse said We were shocked by the way he acted on Saturday. He’s probably one of the smartest horses I’ve ever trained. He never lets things bother him, but he was a mess. When he came into the paddock, I was shocked how he was acting. On Sunday morning, I was there with him and he was perfect. Got him out and jogged him and he was happy. By Monday morning he was getting around, but he wasn’t good. We did some tests which showed the problem was with his right front foot.

By Monday afternoon, he could not walk. He couldn’t get around the shedrow. We started soaking his foot, we X-rayed his foot. The X-ray of the foot was fine. [Wednesday] morning he had a huge puss pocket bust out of the bulb of his foot. He’s now a happy camper and moving around fine. We feel some relief because we knew something was up and we just couldn’t pinpoint it. I’m guessing this had been brewing but not enough for us to catch it before the race. It’s one thing to be sound at a jog or a gallop, another thing when you’re being asked to run at 40 miles per hour. Now, we have an explanation for what is going on.”

Casse also said that he Gulfstream Park is back in the picture for Classic Empire’s next start.

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