Will Vino Rosso Upset the Sam F. Davis Stakes?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 8th, 2018

In January 2017, the Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez made a special trip to Tampa Bay Downs to ride one horse in an ordinary maiden special weight.

The trip proved to be worth his effort, for the horse was Always Dreaming, who went on to win the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) for Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher.

When going over the field for Saturday’s $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs, it’s not hard to notice some similarities between Always Dreaming and the Pletcher-trained #3 Vino Rosso. The well-bred son of Curlin won his debut sprinting seven furlongs at Aqueduct in November, rallying from three lengths off the pace to seize command and win easily in a good time.

Subsequently, Vino Rosso shipped to Tampa Bay Downs to contest a one-mile and 40-yard allowance optional claiming race, and notably, Velazquez made a special trip just to retain the mount. After settling just off the pace through slow fractions of :24.81, :50.06, and 1:14.42, Vino Rosso moved up to take the lead and pulled away late to win by 2 ½ lengths—nothing overly eye-catching at first glance.

But visually speaking, Vino Rosso appeared to have the field measured throughout the race and seemed tons the best in the run down the homestretch. Furthermore, Vino Rosso’s BRIS Late Pace rating was an excellent 103, and while the slow pace contributed to his ability to finish fast, a number like that can be a sign of talent in a young Derby contender.

In the Sam F. Davis Stakes, Vino Rosso will carry just 116 pounds, six less than the expected favorite #6 Catholic Boy. Whether the pace is fast or slow, Vino Rosso should be able to work out an ideal trip and I think he can post the upset.

Catholic Boy also deserves respect off his decisive victory over recent Withers Stakes (gr. III) winner Avery Island in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct last fall. The Withers marked Catholic Boy's dirt debut following a successful campaign on turf, and a repeat of that effort—which saw him earn a 109 Late Pace rating—would make him difficult to beat. But Catholic Boy will be conceding weight to his rivals and making just his second start on dirt; given that his pedigree is somewhat turf-oriented, I’m not sure I trust Catholic Boy to deliver another huge run while switching to a different racetrack, one that is quicker than the slow, tiring track at Aqueduct.

My strategy will be to key Vino Rosso to finish no worse than second and hope that he takes a step forward in his stakes debut.

$12 to win on #3 Vino Rosso at 3-1 or higher $8 exacta: 3,6 with 3,6 ($16) $1 trifecta: 3 with 1,4,5,6 with 1,4,5,6 ($12)

Good luck!