Kentucky Derby Countdown

The Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs - live on Sky Sports Racing - is the most important Kentucky Derby prep this weekend, and American racing expert Peter Fornatale previews the race, putting forward a value bet against the odds-on favourite.

  • Saturday 08 February
  • Blog
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This weekend’s most important Kentucky Derby prep race is the Sam F. Davis (22.29) at Tampa Bay Downs. It sees the return to the races of Independence Hall, who ran the fastest time figure of any two-year-old last year in his penultimate start in the Nashua.

Last time in the Jerome, despite winning by four lengths, he didn’t make as good of an impression visually or on the clock. He reportedly acted up pre-race, and perhaps he left some of his race in the paddock that day.

The four workouts since look impressive – especially the fast five-furlong work from January 26 – and he is still a very intriguing prospect for the Derby. That said, from a punting perspective, this is a day to oppose him.

He will have to deal with another speedy rival on the lead in Premier Star. Premier Star, trained by Jorge Navarro, flashed a lot of talent beating up an overmatched field in an allowance race at Gulfstream last time and his two time figures are very much in line with Independence Hall’s last one.

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A win by either aforementioned runner would be no surprise, but SOLE VOLANTE is the one I want to bet. Listed at 8-1 on the USA morning line, Sole Volante has shown himself to have a lot of ability down the lane and he might just get a great setup if the top two engage furiously.

He made an early mid-race move last time in a race that was controlled on the front end and may do a lot better under these circumstances. That last race came back pretty fast, and if that 8-1 price ends up being real and all eight horses remain in the field, he could be an excellent each-way bet.


SOLE VOLANTE in the Sam F. Davis


As for last weekend’s preps, TIZ THE LAW made an excellent impression. He received a controversial ride from Manny Franco because he showed speed, but was wrangled back, creating a few anxious moments for those who bet him, which I advised people to do in this space last week.

But Tiz the Law settled just fine and produced an excellent stretch run to get the money and earn a solid time figure (100 on the Beyer scale) in the process. He looks like a major contender for the Derby, and perhaps by settling and finishing he’s now learned a skill that his rider can call on as the tests get more difficult in the coming months. 

THOUSAND WORDS won the Bob Lewis at Santa Anita in more workmanlike fashion, earning a Beyer of 92. My gut says he won’t end up being one of the three-year-old stars in the Baffert barn as the year goes on but good for him and connections by making the most of his opportunities so far.

The Withers at Aqueduct, won by Max Player, came back in a slow time and it seems unlikely that this group of horses will make an impact come Derby time. I did think that Monday Morning Qb had a notably bad trip and is one who might be interesting eventually for a wager, especially with a cutback in distance.

Kentucky Derby Countdown
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