There’s only one Kentucky Derby (G1) points race this weekend, Saturday’s $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, but it’s not lacking in intrigue as unbeaten favorite Independence Hall stretches out for the first time.
Moreover, the result will come in the midst of Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which opened Friday and concludes at 6 p.m. (ET) Sunday. Independence Hall ranked as the second individual choice on the Pool 2 morning line at 10-1, behind Tiz the Law at 8-1, and he’ll need to win to solidify his status.
Here are my five points to ponder:
1. Independence Hall is stepping up both in distance and level of competition.
From a pedigree perspective as well as his race record, Independence Hall should handle the stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles. The son of hot young Tapit stallion Constitution turned in a tour de force in the Nashua (G3) and another convincing display in the Jerome over the same one-turn mile at Aqueduct.
The Davis exam is stiffer not so much because of the two-turn angle but rather because of the competition. While Ajaaweed is the obvious danger on form, Premier Star serves up a tactical challenge to Independence Hall as well. By Tapiture (another emerging son of Tapit), Premier Star likewise brings an undefeated mark into his first route. The Jorge Navarro pupil has shown high speed in his maiden and allowance scores at Gulfstream Park, and his form was flattered when Caracaro came back to win impressively.
Independence Hall is capable of rallying from just off the pace as he did in his stylish debut at Parx, but he’s been more aggressive early in his two ensuing stakes. Even after breaking slowly in the Jerome, he had his head on his chest as he bulled his forward to press the leader. With no shortage of pace on tap at Tampa, the Mike Trombetta pupil might need to settle a bit more in the opening stages.
2. Battle-tested Ajaaweed could be poised for a top effort.
After his furious late charge came up short in a paceless Remsen (G2), Ajaaweed figures to enjoy the prospect of an honest tempo here. The Curlin colt is no plodder either, considering his sharp Sept. 11 maiden score around Belmont’s one-turn mile.
Ajaaweed’s resume would look better if he hadn’t finished a distant fourth in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said that the Shadwell homebred didn’t cope with shipping too well from New York, and accordingly was subpar on the day. Even so, it was no disgrace since the top three in the Breeders’ Futurity – Maxfield, Gouverneur Morris, and Enforceable, the recent Lecomte (G3) winner – are mightily promising. This time, Ajaaweed won’t have as far to travel since he’s in winter quarters at Palm Meadows.
3. Sole Volante has a profile in one respect similar to Ete Indien.
Ete Indien, second best to Tiz the Law in the Holy Bull (G3), started out on turf and prospered on the switch to dirt. Sole Volante, his stablemate from the Patrick Biancone barn, fared even better on the lawn before his dirt experiment.
The Niarchos-bred by Karakontie and from the all-star family of Main Sequence and Ulysses captured his first two starts on turf including the Pulpit S. at Gulfstream. Sole Volante next tried dirt in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man and closed for third to Chance It. That fine effort, where he was beaten a couple of lengths while pulling seven clear of the rest, netted Sole Volante a 100 Brisnet Speed Rating. In this field, only Independence Hall’s 101 in the Nashua is higher.
The chief contrast with the speedy Ete Indien is running style. Sole Volante is a closer. Given the projected pace scenario, and Tampa’s proclivity for suiting turfy types, he could outperform his 8-1 odds.
4. Chapalu and Tiz Rye Time bring sneaky form.
Chapalu is another who could find the Tampa surface congenial as he transitions from turf and synthetic. Trained by Arnaud Delacour, the Flatter colt broke his maiden handily in what’s turned out to be a productive Oct. 6 contest at Keeneland. Notably the third-placer, Blackberry Wine, has gone on to win twice on dirt and set himself up for a crack at the Risen Star (G2). Chapalu graduated from his turf maiden to wire the Grey (G3) on Woodbine’s Tapeta, and he’s been training forwardly on this track.
Tiz Rye Time hit his best stride late to overturn Todd Pletcher’s 1-5 shot Candy Tycoon at Gulfstream two back. While Candy Tycoon was a dominant maiden winner next out, Tiz Rye Time wound up fourth in an entry-level allowance behind Ny Traffic. Considering that he had looked out of it on the far turn, his belated rally to be part of a photo for the minors salvaged the effort. The Tiznow colt has scope to improve for Ian Wilkes, although the Davis might be more of a stepping stone than a breakthrough.
5. Albert Park brings the pedigree angle.
No match for Risen Star-bound Liam’s Lucky Charm when runner-up in the 7-furlong Pasco here, Albert Park needs to take a leap forward to threaten the principals. But the Godolphin homebred sports the kind of pedigree that offers hope. He’s by Street Sense and out of Grade 1 turfiste Indy Five Hundred, who is herself a daughter of A.P. Indy and Group 2 heroine Lyphard’s Delta. That makes Indy Five Hundred a full sister to Delta’s Princess, the dam of Hall of Famer Royal Delta (as well as Grade 1 winners Delta Prince and Crown Queen).