Sole Volante took advantage of a hot pace in Saturday’s $200,000 Sam F. Davis (G3), closing fast to win going away in the Kentucky Derby qualifier at Tampa Bay Downs. He ran down 3-5 favorite Independence Hall in deep stretch to post the 2 ½-length decision, and Luca Panici was up on the Patrick Biancone-trained gelding.
From the first crop of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Karakontie, Sole Volante won his first two starts on turf last fall, including the Pulpit at Gulfstream Park in late November, before switching to the main track with a rallying third in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man at a one-turn mile. He’s campaigned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Limelight Stables, and Andie Biancone.
“We love him a lot,” Biancone said. “He’s fantastic on the turf and in America, the life is the dirt, so I ran him in a sprint race at Gulfstream (Mucho Macho Man) just to see if he could handle it and let him take some kickback. He did everything perfectly but ran a little bit early that day and struggled a little the last sixteenth. Today I said to Luca, let him relax and run the last three-eighths and that’s what he did.
“He’s a very interesting young horse.”
Sole Volante saved ground in fifth, more than 15 lengths off the pace after the opening-half mile, as Premier Star and Chapalu dueled through splits of :23.34 and :46.52. Independence Hall was a little headstrong during the opening stages, and under a stiff hold from jockey Jose Ortiz, before making his move rounding the far turn, but Sole Volante was rallying fast into the contention at the same time.
Independence Hall took a short lead into the stretch and tried to respond when challenged inside the eighth pole, but Sole Volante had too much momentum. The winner completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.60, scoring as the 5.80-1 third choice in the seven-horse field.
“We knew from the beginning he’s a good horse,” Panici said. “He’s very intelligent and when you ask him something he’s a quick learner. I asked him about the three-eighths pole and I never had a doubt.”
As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Davis awarded points on a 10-4-2-1 scale toward a berth in a 20-horse field. Independence Hall, who sustained his first defeat, held second by 11 1/4 lengths over 3-1 second choice Ajaaweed, who edged fourth-placer Tiz Rye Time by a neck. No Getting Over Me, Premier Star and Chapalu came next under the wire.
Bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings, Sole Volante was purchased for $20,000 at last year’s OBS April two-year-old sale. He is out of the Kingmambo mare Light Below, making his a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Explode, and Light Below is a half-sister to English highweight Shiva and Group 1 winner Light Shift.