Destin proves best of Pletcher duo in Sam F. Davis
Ridden for the first time by John Velazquez, Destin settled into fourth as Morning Fire led from Awesome Slate and Gettysburg through splits of :23.92 and :48.16. Rounding the far turn, Destin made his bid outside Awesome Slate to grab second while Gettysburg, the 8-5 favorite, began his retreat at the rail.
Although reaching the three-quarter marker with a one-length advantage in 1:12.95, Morning Fire could not withstand the challenge from Destin entering the stretch. Destin had one more rival to turn back in second choice Rafting, who made a solid bid in upper stretch but could not catch the gray son of Giant's Causeway.
Owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stables and trained by Todd Pletcher, Destin won by 2 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:43.67 over a fast track and paid $10. Rafting was 3 1/2 lengths clear of Morning Fire, who was followed by Awesome Slate, Gettysburg, and Whatawonderflworld. No More Chillin was scratched.
Destin and Gettysburg were the only Triple Crown nominated colts in the Sam F. Davis, which did not offer any points toward Kentucky Derby (G1) eligibility as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. Destin previously earned one point for his fourth-place finish in the January 16 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds. This Sam F. Davis result obviously flatters the form of the Lecomte, whose top two finishers -- Mo Tom and Tom's Ready -- have been entered for next week's Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds.
Prior to the Lecomte, Destin had won on debut at Belmont Park, winning by a length in a seven-furlong maiden on October 11. In his second start, he second as an odds-on favorite in a one-mile, entry-level allowance at Gulfstream.
Destin and Rafting, who was making his first start since winning the $75,000 Smooth Air at Gulfstream Park West on November 28, could return for the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby, also at 1 1/16 miles. The race offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to its first four finishers.
“We are just tickled pink,” said Randy Gullat, Twin Creeks Racing Stable's Team Manager. “John (Velazquez) said he was still extremely green in this race, but if we can get him to learn something and keep his mind on running the whole time, I think he will take another step forward. I think he definitely wants to go longer. He is bred to run all day long.”
A $400,000 Keeneland September purchase, Destin was reared by Grade 1 winner Dream of Summer and is a full brother to Creative Cause, who won the Norfolk (G1) at two and placed in four other Grade 1 events, including the Preakness (G1).
Weep No More, exiting a 1 3/4-length maiden win over the track January 22, finished strongly from near the back to win the $60,000 Suncoast for three-year-old fillies later in the card. Under Victor Lebron, the daughter of Mineshaft won going away by 2 3/4 lengths and completed one mile and 40 yards in 1:41.69. She paid $29.60.
Finishing second in the Suncoast, Tampa Bay Downs' leading race for three-year-old fillies on dirt, was 10-1 chance Valuable Charmer. It was another half-length back to 17-10 favorite Smart Shopping.
Owned by Glen Bromagen and trained by Rusty Arnold, Weep No More finished a distant eighth to Smart Shopping in their mutual debut at Churchill Downs going seven furlongs November 28. Smart Shopping had not raced since, while Weep No More won the aforementioned maiden over the Suncoast distance.