©2017 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us to sunny Florida, Saturday where McCraken will go to the starting gate as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the 37th running of the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Post time is 4:45 ET.
Undefeated in three starts for trainer Ian Wilkes, McCraken comes into this race with wins in the Street Sense Stakes and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
MCCRAKEN was unhurried early, swung into the six path on the far turn, made a bid four wide down the lane, edged clear past the leader while ridden out to the finish.
McCraken has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® rating but his Behavior Index makes him competitive in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3).
Ghostzapper, a 2012 Hall of Fame inductee and the sire of McCraken, was an incredibly talented, multiple graded stakes winner that compiled a 9-0-1 record in 11 starts with $3,466,120 in career earnings.
As a two year old, Ghostzapper won his maiden special weight debut by nine lengths and was 1-0-0 in two starts. At the age of three, Ghostzapper won the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) and finished third in the King’s Bishop (G1), compiling a 3-0-1 record in four starts.
As a four year old, Ghostzapper was undefeated in four starts winning the Tom Fool Handicap (G2), Philip H. Iselin Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G3), Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (G1). In addition, Ghostzapper was selected as the 2004 Eclipse Horse of the Year and Eclipse Champion Older Horse.
In his only start as a five year old, Ghostzapper was a 6¼ length winner of the one mile Metropolitan Handicap (G1).
Since his last start, McCraken has been training well and I look for him to run a good race.
Wild Shot (5-1) comes into this race for trainer George Arnold with a 1-2-1 record four starts. He was one of my picks in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1, video) and he finished second to McCracken in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
WILD SHOT tracked the pace early, shifted into the four path in the far turn, took over and inched clear inside the eighth pole but yielded late in the drive.
With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking Wild Shot is the best bred colt in this race. However, Wild Shot has yet to fully live up to his breeding and it remains to be seen if he can earn graded stakes honors.
Trappe Shot, the sire of Wild Shot, raced mostly in sprints from the age of two to four, compiling a 6-2-0 record in 12 starts with $703,884 in career earnings. His best stakes victories were in the six furlong Waldoboro Stakes, True North Handicap (G2) and he did stretch out to win the 8½ furlong Long Branch Stakes. In other route races, Trappe Shote finished second in the nine-furlong Izod Haskell Invitational (G1) and ninth in the Travers Stakes (G1).
To date, Trappe Shot’s best runner on the Kentucky Derby Trail has been My Man Sam who finished second in the nine furlong 2016 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) stakes.
Wild Shot has been training well, firing several bullet work outs in preparation for this race. Another step forward in his debut as a three year old will make him competitive.
A long shot I like in this race is Fact Finding (9-2). He comes into this race undefeated in three starts for trainer Todd Pletcher including a win by seven lengths in the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream on December 10. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
FACT FINDING held slight lead out of the chute then came under pressure from BASHA, continued to duel for the lead racing along inside of rival through the backstretch, edged away past the quarter pole, continued driving on top, pulled away then finished ridden out in final sixteenth.
Fact Finding looked good scoring an easy win in the Smooth Air Stakes and, with three straight wins, he appears to be farther along than his sire, The Factor, was at this point on the trail.
The Factor was a multiple graded stakes winner that compiled a 6-2-0 record in 13 starts with $922,180 in career earnings and, as a two year old, he compiled a 1-0-0 record in two starts.
As a three year old, The Factor won four races in seven starts. His most notable wins were in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) and Rebel Stakes (G2). After finishing seventh in the Arkansas Derby, The Factor was given a four month rest and came back to win the Pat O’Brien Stakes (G1) and Malibu Stakes (G2).
The Factor went on at the age of four to win the San Carlos Stakes (G2) and he finished second in both the Triple Bend Handicap (G1) and the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1).
Fact Finding has been training well and a recent bullet work on January 21 could have him ready to run another good race.
No Dozing (4-1) comes into this race with a 2-1-0 record in four starts for trainer Arnaud Delacour including a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and a second-place finish in the nine-furlong Remsen Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
NO DOZING hung out three wide on the first turn, made his way around the subsequent one from path four wide, swung as wide into the stretch, gained ground belatedly while securing second.
No Dozing was gaining at the end but ran out of ground. With a B Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® he should be competitive in this race but he will need to pick up the pace in order to secure the win.
Union Rags, the sire of No Dozing, was a competitive colt on the trail to the 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1), compiling an overall 5-1-1 record in eight career starts with $1,798,800 in earnings.
As a two year old, he won the Three Chimneys Saratoga Special (G2) and Champagne (G1) stakes and finished second in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) stakes.
At the age of three, Union Rags won the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) stakes and finished third in the Florida Derby (G1) en route to a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He finished his career with a narrow win by a neck over Paynter in the Belmont (G1) stakes.
Honorable mention goes to the long shots Tapwrit (8-1) and State of Honor (8-1) who could, perhaps, be factors but will need to improve off their last start in order to secure the win.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive one point. Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2017 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Classic Empire, 32, Mark Casse, $1,493,820
2. El Areeb, 20, Cathal Lynch, $300,000
3. Gormley, 20, John Sherriffs, $260,000
4. Gunnevera, 14, Antonio Sano, $807,200
5. Practical Joke, 14, Chad Brown, $690,000
6. Uncontested, 11, Wayne Catalano, $99,300
7. Lookin At Lee, 10, Steve Asmussen, $275,600
8. Irish War Cry, 10, Graham Motion, $272,660
9. Mastery, 10, Bob Baffert, $240,000
10. Mo Town, 10, Tony Dutrow, $180,000
11. McCraken, 10, Ian Wilkes, $165,048
12. Guest Suite, 10, Neil Howard, $128,040
13. Royal Mo, 10, John Sherriffs, $90,000
14. Irap, 8, Doug O’Neill, $90,000
15. Wild Shot, 6, Rusty Arnold, II, $87,200
16. True Timber, 6, Kiaran McLaughlin, $65,000
17. No Dozing, 5, Arnaud Delacour, $85,000
18. Bonus Points, 5, Todd Pletcher, $52,500
19. Klimt, 4, Art Sherman, $380,000
20. Hot Sean, 4, Bob Baffert, $180,000
x-Not This Time, retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm.
In addition to the current top 20, Churchill Downs has partnered with the Japan Racing Association to feature the Cattleya Sho Stakes and Hayacinth Stakes as two qualifying races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. The horse with the most points from those races will receive an invitation to compete in the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
2017 JAPAN ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Mont Saint Legame (JPN), 40, Koji Maki, $90,154
2. Caucus (JPN), 16, Hideaki Fujiwara, $35,850
3. Blane Eclat, 8, Ryo Takei, $22,340
4. Lavapies (JPN), 4, Ryuji Okub, $52,163