The Road to the Tampa Bay Derby, which has proven to be a productive path to the Triple Crown, begins with today’s G3 Sam F Davis Memorial at 1-1/16 miles.
In our opinion–at this juncture anyway–there are four proven legitimate Derby-type prospects: Independence Hall (6-5), Ajaaweed (4-1), Sole Volente (8-1) and Chapalu (8-1).
Chapalu is the mystery horse, never having run on dirt. But his two wins came going long with Lasix, one turf and one on Tapeta–the Canadian G3 Grey Stakes last October. Since, he shows 11 workouts, eight at Tampa, and Arnaud Delacour is hitting at 35% this meet, 33% with Daniel Centeno.
Ajaaweed is a favorite of ours but this is his first start of the year. Bred to run all day, he will need a strong pace, which he is unlikely get, and he’s a big boy, so it’s fair to question how tightly he will be wound in his first run since the Remsen. Regular partner Joel Rosario does come in to ride.
Independence Hall is a worthy favorite and most probable winner. He’s won three career starts by a combined 20-3/4 lengths, is a multiple stakes winner, including the G3 Nashua, but lacks two turn experience and gives four pounds to all but Chapula. He will be a pace factor throughout.
The race offers a value play in Sole Volante. After winning the Pulpit on turf, he finished third behind the gifted Chance It in his dirt debut, finishing very well late on a speed-favoring day at Gulfstream in the Mucho Macho Man.
Bred for today’s added ground, he’s been working bullets for his graded stakes debut. So take a look at that last effort. With permission, it’s a replay of RACE 10, JAN 4 at Gulfstream Park. Clickon the Tampa Bay Video link on the HRI homepage. We will bet to win, needing 4-1 or greater.