Equibase Analysis: Prairie Hawk Could Swoop Top Honors in Sam F. Davis Stakes – Horse Racing News

Good Magic colt Dubyuhnell, ridden by Jose Ortiz, takes the G2 Remsen

The Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla., brings together a full field of 12 3-year-olds hoping to earn points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which may help them enter the Churchill Downs starting gate on the first Saturday in May. First they must run well here and likely return next month in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Leading the field in accomplishments is Dubyuhnell, who won the G2 Remsen Stakes in December to close out his 2-year-old campaign. Another stakes winner last year is Champions Dream, winner of the G3 Nashua Stakes in November, who finished second in his 3-year-old debut in the Pasco Stakes over this track. The Pasco was won by Zydeceaux, who is stretching out to two turns for the first time as is Champions Dream.

Dreaming of Kona is another with stakes credentials, coming off a win in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, a one-turn mile race in which he initially finished second but was moved up when the winner was disqualified. Worthington moves to dirt for the first time off a third-place finish in the Dania Beach Stakes and adds to the depth of the field. Then there’s a quartet of horses with a lot of talent coming into the race off wins. Classic Car Wash and Prairie Hawk both seek their third straight wins after defeating maidens and allowance foes, while Classic Legacy and Notah are stepping up in class off maiden victories, also stretching out to two turns for the first time. Groveland was defeatedone length by Prairie Hawk over the track last month and is another contender. Then there’s Litigate, who finished second in an allowance race following a maiden win in his debut and a horse that could enjoy the added distance he’s attempting for the first time. Laver rounds out the field, having finished fifth of 11 last month in the Mucho Macho Man.

Main win contenders:

Prairie Hawk was well regarded at odds of 3-1 in his debut last October in a six-furlong sprint at Gulfstream Park but faded to sixth of 10 after pressing the pace in second for the first half of the race. Stretched out to two-turns for his second career start at Tampa Bay Downs in December, Prairie Hawk was a much different horse. Rallying and opening up by three lengths entering the stretch, he held the lead to the wire. Four weeks ago on Jan. 13 and in his third career start, second around two turns and second at Tampa Bay Downs, Prairie Hawk took the lead from the start and was never threatened. His improving pattern of Equibase Speed Figures, from 67 to 84 and then to 91, suggests he will run another career-best effort today. Before leaving trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.’s base at Gulfstream Park, Prairie Hawk put in a strong half-mile workout (:46.40) and once again gets the services of Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Samy Camacho, who rode the colt to his last two wins. As a son of Curlin there’s little doubt Prairie Hawk can contend in the big races for 3-year-olds, particularly as his dam Princess Ash produced Quip, the winner of the 2018 Tampa Bay Derby.

Litigate is another horse who ships in from Gulfstream Park, this one for Todd Pletcher. The colt won his sprint debut last November with a very strong 92 Equibase figure for a 2-year-old, duplicating that effort almost two months later on Jan. 8 when second in a highly rated allowance race. Winner Cyclone Mischief returned in the Holy Bull Stakes last weekend and ran poorly, but Litigate may take another step forward as he tries two turns for the first time, getting the services of Luis Saez, and who also put in a strong half-mile workout (best of 31 on the day) in preparation for this race.

Groveland must be considered a contender as he was only one length behind Prairie Hawk in that allowance race over the track last month. He has continued to improve since his debut, particularly since stretched out to two turns for the first time in December, earning an 87 figure that he bettered to 89 last month. Jockey Centeno got familiar with him in that race and rides back, which is another good sign for a competitive effort.

Worthington has figures as good as the top contenders in this race, particularly the 96 figure earned on Nov. 26, one race before last. He won that race by 2 1/2 lengths under Saez, who chooses to ride Litigate in this race. All four career starts to date have been on turf, but the colt has breeding to run just as well on the dirt as the dam’s other two foals are winners in dirt routes and as he is by Classic Empire, winner of some big stakes races including the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 2017 Arkansas Derby. An Equibase Race Lens query reveals trainer Mike Maker has a good record (18% wins) moving horses from turf to dirt for stakes, and the colt’s 90 and 96 last two figures stand up well with the other main contenders.

I am taking a stand against possible betting favorite Dubyuhnell, winner of the Remsen Stakes last December in his final start as a 2-year-old. The reasons are many, but the most important are he is giving away physical condition to most of the rest of the field that ran last month, as well as the record of Remsen winners in their 3-year-old debuts is not good. Only Mohayman, who won the 2016 Holy Bull Stakes in his 3-year-old debut, succeeded in a similar situation, with 10 of the other 11 most recent Remsen winners having poor comebacks in their 3-year-old debuts, with the possible exception of Catholic Boy, who was second in the 2018 Sam F. Davis Stakes.

The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is Champions Dream (83), Classic Car Wash (80), Classic Legacy (84), Dreaming of Kona (82), Laver (84), Notah (81) and Zydeceaux (85).

Main Win Contenders, in probability order:

Prairie Hawk




Sam F. Davis Stakes – Grade 3
Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs
Saturday, Feb. 11 – Post Time 5:18 PM E.T.
One Mile and One Sixteenth
Three Year Olds, Purse $250,000

Ellis Starr is national racing analyst for Equibase

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