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Homeracing

Sam F. Davis Deserves Derby Points

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TwinSpires Staff

February 7th, 2015

by Laura Pugh

Churchill Downs made the right decision to use a points system rather than graded stakes earnings to determine Kentucky Derby starters.

The points system encourages development in a three-year-old season because no longer are there de facto win and you’re in races for two-year-olds like the Breeders’ Cup and Delta Jackpot used to be, and it is now more difficult for a pure sprinter to qualify for the Derby.

However, there are still kinks that need to be addressed. Some feel the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile should be worth more points or that the Illinois Derby should be worth some points, and there are valid arguments on both sides of those races, but I feel is overlooked is the recently run Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Yes, many can say that Tampa Bay doesn’t always put forth the best Derby prospects, but this is a graded stakes for three-year-olds around two turns. The likes of Any Given Saturday, Rule, General Quarters, and Bluegrass Cat—all Kentucky Derby starters and eventual Grade 1 winners—came from this race. In fact, since 2005, only three winners of the Sam F Davis failed to make it to the gates of the Kentucky Derby (see chart below).

One can make the argument, that most of the horses that made it to the Derby gate failed to menace, however, that can be said for many other early-season Derby preps. Since 2005, the Holy Bull is only 5 for 10 at winning Derby starters.

Another eagerly anticipated, early season, Kentucky Derby prep is the Sham Stakes, which since 2005, only three of its winners have made it to the Kentucky Derby. The best finish among those that made it was Colonel John finishing sixth.

Both the Holy Bull and the Sham offer 17 qualifying points with 10 to the winner.

Year

Sam F.Davis Winner

Holy Bull Winner

Sham Stakes Winner

Kentucky Derby Start

2014

Vinceremos

Cairo Prince

Midnight Hawk

Yes/No/No

2013

Falling Sky

Itsmyluckyday

Out of Bounds

Yes/Yes/No

2012

Battle Hardened

Algorithms

Goldencents

No/No/Yes

2011

Brethren

Dialed In

Tapizar

No/Yes/No

2010

Rule

Winslow Homer

Alphie’s Bet

Yes/No/No

2009

General Quarters

Saratoga Sinner

The Pamplemousse

Yes/No/No

2008

Fierce Wind

Hey Byrn

Colonel John

No/No/Yes

2007

Any Given Saturday

Nobiz Like Showbiz

Ravel

Yes/Yes/No

2006

Bluegrass Cat

Barbaro

Bob and John

Yes/Yes/Yes

2005

Andromeda’s Hero

Closing Argument

Going Wild

Yes/Yes/No

As can be seen by the chart, the Holy Bull and Sam F. Davis, are nearly equal in their ability to produce Kentucky Derby starters, while the Sham struggles. Clearly, based on these stats, the runners of the Sam F. Davis deserves to be awarded with points.

Overall, I like the points system as an improvement over its predecessor, which treated all graded stakes equally regardless of distance, surface, or sex restrictions. But an improvement doesn’t mean perfection, and a return to the points schedule for the Sam F. Davis in 2016 would be a welcome enhancement.

Laura Pugh is a Delaware-based racing fan, who Derek Simon once called a "friend" on his blog

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