Expert Pick of the Week: Sam F. Davis Stakes

Feb 06, 2020 John Mucciolo/

A strong cast of eight 3-year-olds will travel 1 1/16 miles on the dirt at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday in the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3). The “2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying event will offer points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four finishers.

Unbeaten Independence Hall has been sublime from three races to date for conditioner Michael Trombetta. The $100,000 son of Constitution was an impressive winner on debut at Parx going 7 furlongs, and he followed that performance with an eye-popping, 12-length romp in the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct.

The Kentucky-bred colt made it 3-for-3 following his four-length stroll in the Jerome S., and he has posted four local morning drills on this course in the interim. While he will face his toughest test to date, the high-quality Independence Hall is the Expert Pick of the Week.

Finding value with the likely short-priced favorite is the challenge in the Sam F. Davis, and I will use two horses underneath the top pick. Pasco S. runner-up Albert Park will be making his first start over a route of ground on dirt Saturday. Conditioned by Michael Stidham, the son of Street Sense possesses the most powerful pedigree in the field and will thrive on the stretch-out.

Albert Park was a stakes-winning juvenile and ran well in his 2020 bow with blinkers on for the initial time. The Kentucky-bred colt is out of a Grade 1 winner and is related to three-time champion Royal Delta. I expect the well-meant sophomore to improve on the quick turnaround with fine local pilot Pablo Morales in the controls.

Sole Volante was purchased for a bargain price of $20,000 as a juvenile, but the son of Karakontie has outrun his sales ticket to this stage of his development. The Patrick Biancone trainee was a daylight winner in his first two career outings on the lawn, and he then proved to be capable on the dirt following a fine third-place finish behind the immensely talented Chance It in the Mucho Macho Man S.

The gelded Kentucky-bred ran on a surface that is difficult to make up ground upon at Gulfstream Park last time out, and he will get a fairer surface to rally into at Tampa Bay on Saturday. Luca Panici will be in the stirrups atop the bay.

Expert Pick

An exacta with Independence Hall over Albert Park and Sole Volante is the Best Bet of the Week.

Kentucky Derby Horse Profile: Independence Hall

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