Edited Tampa Staff Release – “Plan A” for Saturday’s Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner No More Time was to race in the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream Park. Instead, trainer Jose Francisco D’Angelo scratched him a few days before that race, deciding he needed more time to present the colt at his best.
“He was supposed to run in an allowance race in December and got a fever, and he only had two workouts for the (Jan. 1) Mucho Macho Man Stakes” (in which he finished fifth), D’Angelo said earlier today. “We’re trying to make a campaign for him, and I thought he needed one more workout before his next start to be at his best.”
Do Thoroughbreds sense their handlers’ thoughts? We may never know, but No More Time responded to the change of plans by breezing 5 furlongs at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach on the day of the Holy Bull in a minute flat under exercise rider Wilnell Mercado, the fastest of 13 workouts there at the distance.
“That workout was so, so good,” D’Angelo said.
So good that he was ready to rip and roar in the Sam F. Davis, in which he busted to the lead out of the gate under jockey Paco Lopez, who rolled with the flow all the way to a length-and-a-quarter victory from a hard-charging but non-threatening Agate Road, who came from last place early under jockey Jose Ortiz after he hit the gate at the start.
West Saratoga, who posed the only serious challenge to the winner at the top of the stretch, flattened out to finish third, five-and-a-quarter lengths behind Agate Road and a head in front of Elysian Meadows.
The time of 1:43.26 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance on a fast track was respectable, but mattered little to D’Angelo, Lopez and owners Rich Mendez, his son Josh, Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo, who race No More Time under their Morplay Racing banner.
D’Angelo said No More Time is on the small side and the effort took something out of him, but he ate well and was on his way back to south Florida this afternoon. The next step, the trainer said, is to prepare him for a likely start in the Grade III, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 9.
No More Time collected 20 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points toward qualifying for the Run for the Roses on May 4 at Churchill Downs, elevating him to sixth place in the standings. The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby awards 50 points to the winner, 25 to second, 15 to third, 10 to fourth and 5 to fifth.
“We are preparing him for the Tampa Bay Derby and all the good races ahead, and when you’re prepping for races like the Kentucky Derby you need to run,” D’Angelo said. “They learn and improve so much more than they would from a workout. They are learning every race.”
D’Angelo expects tougher competition next time, but “I feel he will be better, too,” he said.
Agate Road, who picked up 10 points Saturday, is another who could return here for the March 9 Festival Day headliner. “Agate Road finished up with good energy,” said his trainer, Todd Pletcher. “I’m happy with his effort. We’ll consider bringing him back here for the Tampa Bay Derby.”
Agate Road is owned by St. Elias Stable and Repole Stable.
West Saratoga raised his points total to 17, and while trainer Larry Demeritte said he and owner Harry L. Veruchi could choose the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby for his next start, they are leaning toward the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 23 at Turfway Park. That race awards 100-50-25-15-10 points to the first five finishers, and a third-place finish or better there would seem to guarantee West Saratoga a spot in the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve starting gate.
The field for the Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 horses.
“He ran a good race (Saturday),” said Demeritte. “It was a good bunch and maybe I thought I had him a little tighter than he was, but I thought he ran well enough. I have no excuses and I know he is going to get better.
“He went right to his feed tub after he cooled down and came out of the race very good. Jesus (Castanon, his jockey) likes this horse as much as I do, and he told me when he came off him he is going to move forward off this race. When he turned for home I thought he was going to kick it in, but this should really set him up for the next one.”
Saturday’s other stakes winners and their connections included 3-year-old filly Power Squeeze, who picked up 20 Longines Kentucky Oaks qualifying points for owner Lea Farms and trainer Jorge Delgado with her Suncoast Stakes triumph under Daniel Centeno; 6-year-old gelding Sibelius, who won the Pelican Stakes under Junior Alvarado for owners Jun H. Park and Delia Nash and trainer Jerry O’Dwyer; and 5-year-old mare Chi Town Lady, who won the Minaret Stakes with Tyler Gaffalione aboard for owner Castleton Lyons and trainer Wesley Ward.
Around the oval. Today’s mandatory Ultimate 6 payout returned $6,382.48 each to 57 bettors who correctly selected all six winners of races 4-through-9. The winning combination was 2-9-1-6-2-7.
Apprentice jockey Gabriel Maldonado rode two winners today. He captured the first race on Imtakinittothebank, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by PRZ and Sanz Stable and trained by Pablo R. Torres. Imtakinittothebank was claimed by trainer Craig R. Smith for $5,000 for new owner Dialed In Racing Stable.
Maldonado added the ninth and final race on the turf on Diosa Catrina, a 4-year-old filly owned by Gina Wright and trained by Michael W. Wright.