March 25, 2019

Well Defined leads all the way in Sam F. Davis

Well Defined and jockey Pablo Morales winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on February 9, 2019 (c) SV Photography

Well Defined sped forward at the break and led unopposed throughout the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, adding his name to the Kentucky Derby picture with a 2 ¾-length decision. Kathleen O’Connell trains the three-year-old gelding for owner/breeder Stonehedge LLC and Pablo Morales was up on the son of Florida-bred son of With Distinction.

Contested over 1 1/16 miles, the Sam Davis awarded points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. Well Defined left the starting gate as the 7-1 fourth choice among nine rivals and stopped the teletimer in 1:42.70.

A restricted stakes winner last fall, Well Defined rebounded from a pair of unplaced finishes in the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs. He didn’t make the early lead in either of those races and Morales hustled his mount from post 7 to clear the competition by the first turn, completing the opening quarter-mile in :23.23 with a three-length advantage.

The dark bay reeled off splits of :47.09 and 1:11.68 before accelerating for home while well off the rail, reaching mid-stretch up by three lengths, and easily maintained his momentum to the wire.

“This horse has a ton of natural talent and I was going to take advantage of that,” Morales said. “I wasn’t too worried about where I was going to be because we were really lucky with the draw position on the outside, so I figured I was going to ride a cool race. The horse is naturally fast and has a super-long stride. I was going to come out running, but if somebody wanted to take the lead, I was OK with that. All I wanted to do was ride a cool and collected race and keep my horse running.”

Kentucky Wildcat offered a nice wide move past foes on the far turn and finished second-best as the 5-2 second choice, 8 3/4 lengths better than the late-running So Alive at 3-1. It was another 1 1/2 lengths to Counter Offer in fourth. Grade 1 winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Knicks Go, the 9-5 favorite, stalked in second before retreating in the stretch to fifth.

Well Defined won his career debut at Gulfstream Park last June and finished second in the seven-furlong Affirmed for Florida-breds two starts later. He led wire-to-wire stretching out to two turns for the In Reality division of the Florida Sire Stakes series, scoring by a widening 7 ½-length margin in late September, but never fired checking in 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The sophomore weakened to fifth in the January 5 Mucho Macho Man at a one-turn mile.

“That’s very, very special to do it at Tampa Bay,” O’Connell said. “He’s had little things that have happened and he’s grown up mentally and physically, and today he showed up with his game face on. I like this horse a lot and the decision (on what’s next) will be up to the owners, but we just want him healthy.

“He is kind of a free-running horse. His rear end slipped out from underneath him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and he was compromised on early position when he ran in the Mucho Macho Man and got bottled up inside, but he’s a young horse who is improving, mind-wise and everything-wise.”

With Saturday’s $170,000 payday, Well Defined has now earned $490,570 from a 9-3-1-1 record. The gelding is out of the unraced Medaglia d’Oro mare Fru Fru, a daughter of the stakes-winning Phone Trick mare Lolabell.