The first round of the $25,000 Kentucky Derby Dream Bet got underway last weekend with a trio of Kentucky Derby prep races and TwinSpires.com players still have 13 opportunities to qualify for the second round by cashing a $5 Win bet. Be sure to click the “Opt In” button from the promotion page to be eligible.
The Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs is the lone offering this weekend and the 1 1/16-mile race features the seasonal debut of Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner McCraken, who inherited the pole position in many Kentucky Derby rankings this week. The unbeaten colt will try to avoid the same fate of 2-year-old champion Classic Empire, who tumbled from the top spot when returning with a disappointing third as the 1-2 Holy Bull (G2) favorite last Saturday.
Here are my thoughts on the Sam Davis contestants:
- STATE OF HONOR: Mucho Macho Man runner-up could add to the pace from inside post but difficult to envision synthetic maiden winner playing serious role in final outcome.
- KING AND HIS COURT: Woodbine stakes winner tries dirt with BRIS Speed ratings in mid-80s; no thanks.
- FACT FINDING: Registered moderate BRIS Speed ratings when capturing first two starts on “fast” tracks and took to a sloppy oval like a duck in water last time, generating a field-best 101 Speed number rolling to 7-length wire-to-wire decision as lone speed. I’m inclined to doubt the legitimacy of the performance and expect Fact Finding to be an underlay stretching out to two turns under dry conditions.
- CHANCE OF LUCK: Inaugural winner and Pasco runner-up is a candidate to mix it up on the front end with triple-digit BRIS Early Pace ratings, but the gray colt faces a daunting class check in his first two-turn attempt.
- SIX GUN SALUTE: Appears in too deep after a well-beaten fifth in Pasco.
- WILD SHOT: Confirmed front-runner concluded juvenile campaign on encouraging note, posting a third in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and runner-up finish in Kentucky Jockey Club. Could be the speed of the speed but figures to catch serious pressure up front.
- TAPWRIT: Expecting further improvement from up-and-coming Tapit colt. A comfortable maiden winner two back, he exits a nice tally in the off-the-turf Pulpit on December 10, defeating a next-out stakes winner. Tapwrit offered a strong turn of foot from just off the pace in both victories and appears capable of getting the jump on closers in this spot. Like the addition of Jose Ortiz and he receives 6 pounds from likely favorite.
- MCCRAKEN: Ghostzapper colt is the one to beat, rallying from off the pace to post convincing victories in all three outings last year. Makes his first start outside of Churchill Downs & may not be fully cranked for Ian Wilkes, but McCraken could receive right set-up behind contested/hot pace.
- NO DOZING: Union Rags colt earned commendable BRIS numbers rallying to be a clear second in the Remsen (G2) and has been working at Tampa since late December for Arnaud Delacour. Late runner looks more than capable of challenging for at least a share.
I like how Tapwrit has advanced on the far turn in his last two starts and expect him to be in a prime spot to pounce on Saturday. He’ll have to hold off a pair of dangerous late runners in McCraken and No Dozing (and I will include the duo in any multi-race wagers), but I’ll tab the improving gray colt for an upset at 8-1 morning line.
A $1.2 million yearling purchase, the Todd Pletcher trainee is by two-time Belmont Stakes-winning sire Tapit. It’s difficult to envision him thriving at 10 furlongs this spring given he’s out of a Successful Appeal mare, but 1 1/16 miles should be within Tapwrit’s wheelhouse.