WinStar Farm's homebred RULE (Roman Ruler) was under pressure virtually the entire way of Saturday's $200,000 Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, but ultimately proved the class of the six-pack of three-year-olds by drawing off to an emphatic three-length win at the end of the 1 1/16-mile contest which serves as the local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby (G3). Under John Velazquez, the Todd Pletcher pupil set fractions of :23 3/5, :47 3/5 and 1:12 1/5 before finishing up in 1:44 over the fast main track. The even-money choice, Rule returned $4, $2.80 and $2.20.
"I thought the inside was running good today but I really didn't want him to get away from the field until I was ready," Velazquez said. "I want him to learn to run with other horses so when he took that challenge from the outside getting to the turn it was what I wanted. Then I asked him in the turn and he came away nicely and I didn't have to do much with him in the stretch."
Schoolyard Dreams (Stephen Got Even), who tracked outside Rule and pace presser Middle of the Nite (Offlee Wild) in third early, moved to engage the eventual winner at the top of the stretch, but could not stick with him and preserved second at 9-1. He returned $5.80 and $3.20. Uptowncharlybrown (Limehouse), the local fan favorite sent off at 3-2 off two dominating sprint scores, trailed early and then caught up with the field around the far turn. However, he never reached contention with the top pair and didn't show his usual acceleration until the final yards when he claimed the show spot by 3 1/2 lengths. He paid $2.40. The exotics were worth $20.60 (exacta), $40 (trifecta) and $176.80 (1-2-6-5 superfecta).
Silver Craft (Value Plus) finished fourth, 7 3/4 lengths ahead of Middle of the Nite, who wilted after keeping the winner honest through the opening six furlongs. Tristen's Mambo (Arch), the 57-1 outsider, trailed after African Moon (Johannesburg) was withdrawn.
"He's probably not going to come back for the Tampa Bay Derby," Pletcher said. "We're probably going to make his next start in a Grade 1. But I will bring something here (for the Tampa Bay Derby)."
Rule took three tries to break his maiden, doing so at Belmont Park on October 8 by 1 1/4 lengths. He tested Delta Downs' track on November 6, recording a dominating nine-length victory in the Jean Lafitte S. while setting a new track record of 1:37.45 for eight furlongs in that contest. Back at that venue on December 4, the dark bay gutted out a neck victory in the Delta Jackpot S. (G3), virtually assuring a spot in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby (G1) with a winner's share of $450,000. His resume now reads 6-4-1-1, and he's banked $716,700 in lifetime earnings.
The first registered foal out of Rockcide (Personal Flag), Rule has a trio of Distorted Humor half-siblings: a juvenile filly named Afaaf, an unnamed yearling filly and a 2010 colt. The Distorted Humor cross has worked in the past for this female line as Rule's second dam, Belle's Good Cide (Slewacide), produced a Distorted Humor foal named Funny Cide. That gelding would go on to capture the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness S. (G1) and be named champion three-year-old in 2003, and at four, he was victorious in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Also in the family is multiple Grade 3 winner Belle of Cozzene (Cozzene).