Brian’s Derby preps: The Sam F. Davis

Tampa Bay Downs: The Grade II, $250,000 Sam F. David at 1 1/16 miles

#1 State Of Play (4-1 ML): Accomplished turf runner makes his 3yo debut and tries the main for the first time in an effort to see where he stands with the best of his generation. Sire War Front made quite a splash on the 3yo dirt scene last winter and this colt drew well, so there’s every reason to believe he’ll handle the transition. There’s also an abundance of speed in this corner so with the tidy rail draw he may very well be sent on his way early, though others will be looking for a trip similar; mixed signals for this talented runner.

#2 Holy Highway (20-1): Enters off two straight turf wins since switching to Ryan’s barn, but he’s bred top and bottom for the dirt, which is clearly why they are throwing him into the deep end here. Has come a long way since breaking his maiden for a 32k tag here in December, but this is a monumental step up in class for a colt who look outgunned; longshot.

#3 Battle Honored (12-1): Still a maiden after three starts and likely to opt for an MSW Saturday at Gulfstream, though if he does run here he’s not completely outclassed. With Kenneally calling the shots for the Coolmore gang, you’ve got some expert connections on your side, but this just seems too tough for him at this point; midpack finish looks destined if he meets the starter.

#4 Ecabroni (7-2): Comes from the seemingly endless line of hotshot Pletcher MSW winners and his GP score in his second career start was impressive. Son of Smoke Glacken isn’t really bred for this longer trip, but his sprint speed makes him the one to catch, though we’ve mentioned others will be rolling early too. There appears to be an abundance of talent in this corner but at short odds and facing winners, not to mention graded foes, for the first time, the risk/reward just doesn’t make sense; taking a strong stand against for win honors.

#5 Moroccan Brew (30-1): Longshot got beaten up pretty good in the local prep, the Pasco, behind a few of these and he’s going to have to improve open lengths to factor. The good news is that he’s got just three starts under his belt, so you could see some improvement, though it’s unlikely to put him anywhere near the money; needs softer to threaten.

#6 Neck ‘n Neck (5-1): Up-and-comer posted a sharp two-turn MSW win at Churchill Downs to end his 2yo season and then was a fine second to the Pletcher freak Discreet Dancer when tackling winners for the first time going a flat mile at GP. Gets back to two turns today and his tactical speed will allow him to sit a nice trip off the speed and try to win it off the far turn. With the talent he has and the competition he meets, that’s a scenario you can easily envision; huge threat for all the marbles.

#7 Fox Rules (30-1): New York-bred turf runner is being thrown to the wolves in his 3yo debut, so you wonder if this is just a stepping off point to a turf run next time because he’s the longest shot on the board in here; easy toss.

#8 Ravelo’s Boy (15-1): The most experienced runner in the field with 11 lifetime starts has some catching up to do if he wants to threaten a group like this. The positive is that he owns a win at this distance over at GP, though if he runs that race back, he’s looking at a midpack finish; even a minor award seems to be a reach.

#9 Burning Time (12-1): Stretch runner was a decent fourth in the Pasco but consistently leaves himself too much to do in the lane, which will be an issue every time he meets the starter. His win in the two-turn Foolish Pleasure in September at Calder would put him in the exotics mix here, but the problem is that he’s yet to run close to that effort in four subsequent starts, so you have to wonder where his form is right now. The talent is there but he’s probably going to run out of room once again; tri and super kicker only.

#10 Reveron (3-1): ML favorite looked good winning the GP Derby in his last but that race comes into question as runner-up Casual Look was nowhere in an allowance race there last Sunday (albeit in the slop). Owns some nice tactical speed and he’ll need it from this wide draw because there’s a chance that he’s very wide into the first turn, which will complicate matters quite a bit. Has improved his speed figures in every start so you’ve got to think regression is out there somewhere, so couple that with this draw and he’s got his work cut out for him; playing against.

#11 Perspective (6-1): Pasco winner was rumored to be a Derby horse on the CD backstretch Breeders’ Cup Week and though he didn’t show much in the Juvenile, he sure looked good winning his 3yo debut last month. Bred to run all day and he owns a win at this distance over the Poly at Woodbine last year, plus he got rid of that pesky “can he handle dirt” question in the Pasco. Terrible draw, but he wants to settle and make a run so it won’t hurt him too much; expecting big things from this Casse runner and he looks like the one they’ll all have to beat today.

Selections:

#11 Perspective

#6 Neck ‘n Neck

#4 Ecabroni

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