2024 Kentucky Derby Prep: Wide-Open Field for Sam F. Davis

The 45th edition of the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday may be the toughest challenge yet for horseplayers betting on Kentucky Derby (G1) prep races.

The 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis on dirt offers Derby qualifying points of 20-10-6-4-2 to the first five finishers. Let’s consider the field and come up with a betting plan:-

Two in the field of 12 3-year-olds finished off-the-board in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1): Agate Road, fifth; and Fulmineo, last of 11.

One is an Iowa bred: No More Time, purchased for $40,000.

Only one comes into the race with Derby points: West Saratoga (11 points), Iroquois (G3) winner and fifth in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1).

Half the field is listed at double-digit odds, with El Principito at 50-1.

From Zero to Hero: Change of Command’s Impressive Turnaround

Change of Command in Gulfstream ParkChange of Command, a $1,050,000 purchase at the Keeneland yearling sale, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite. Since leaving New York to spend the winter at Gulfstream Park, the bay colt trained by Shug McGaughey is 2-for-2 after an 0-for-3 career start at Saratoga and Aqueduct.

The son of Into Mischief won a 7-furlong maiden on Dec. 17, then won at 1 1/16 miles in his 3-year-old debut on Jan. 5, both at Gulfstream. The first win was by 6 ¼ lengths; the second in an allowance optional claimer was by a neck as he barely held off Cardinale. Blinkers will be added on Saturday.

“He doesn’t finish the way I’d like for him to,” McGaughey, looking for his first Sam F. David win, told drf.com. “The other day (Jan. 5), he looked like he was going to win by a hundred and he almost got beat. Hopefully, the blinkers will make him go on and finish.”

Racing Spotlight: Pletcher’s Agate Road, Demeritte’s West Saratoga, and Capuano’s Copper Tax

Agate Road, one of two entries from trainer Todd Pletcher, is the 7-2 second choice. A son of Quality Road, Agate Road moves to dirt following four races on the turf – he ran second in the Dania Beach on Jan. 6 at Gulfstream in his 3-year-old debut. His first start was on dirt.

West Saratoga, the most experienced in the field with eight starts (2-4-0) for trainer Larry Demeritte, comes in off a distant second to Book’em Danno in the 7-furlong Pasco Stakes on Jan. 13 at Tampa Bay Downs. A gray son of Exaggerator, West Saratoga is 8-1.

Copper Tax, at 5-1 for trainer Gary Capuano, ships in from Laurel Park. The bay colt won five in a row – four at Delaware Park and a local stakes at Laurel – before running sixth in the Remsen (G3).

Post time is 5:15 p.m. ET.

The picks: 1 West Saratoga 2 Change of Command 3 Copper Tax

The field for the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3), from the rail out, with jockey, trainer, odds:

1 El Principito (Gabriel Maldonado, Michael Laurato), 50-1

2 Tireless (Antonio Gallardo, Todd Pletcher), 12-1

3 Patriot Spirit (Samy Camacho, Michael Campbell), 6-1

4 Crazy Mason (Mychel Sanchez, Greg Sacco), 10-1

5 No More Time (Paco Lopez, Jose D’Angelo), 10-1

6 Agate Road (Jose Ortiz, Todd Pletcher), 7-2

7 Copper Tax (Charlie Marquez, Gary Capuano), 5-1

8 Everdolt (Huber Villa-Gomez, Kevin Rice), 30-1

9 Change of Command (Tyler Gaffalione, Shug McGaughey), 3-1

10 West Saratoga (Jesus Castanon, Larry Demeritte), 8-1

11 Fulmineo (Daniel Centeno, Arnaud Delacour), 15-1

12 Elysian Meadows (Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott), 15-1


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