Having a seasonal debut over the deep, tiring Tampa Bay Downs strip worked out pretty well in the long run for eventual Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Super Saver last year. On Saturday, Super Saver's three-year-old half-brother BRETHREN (Distorted Humor) will take his first step toward potentially emulating his now-retired older sibling when making his sophomore bow in the $225,000 Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at 1 1/16 miles.
A field of 10 three-year-olds will line up for the Davis, the major local prep for the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Local fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the undefeated Brethren, who breaks from post 10, will likely have only the single opportunity on Saturday as the Tampa Bay Derby has been circled as the likely return spot for Brethren's Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate, juvenile champion Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie).
Brethren, who will have his third different rider in as many races when Ramon Dominguez takes the reins for the Davis, edged Black N Beauty (Devil His Due) in his six-furlong debut at Belmont Park on October 16, then followed up with a one-mile allowance score at Churchill Downs by 1 3/4 lengths in late November. Having raced close to the pace in New York, Brethren took more dirt in his face last time when rallying from seventh and might be forced to employ similar stalk-and-pounce tactics breaking outside with a short run to the first turn.
MONZON (Thunder Gulch) has spent two-thirds of his brief career running on grass, but is undefeated in two starts on dirt heading into the Sam Davis. His first attempt was a 12 1/2-length maiden triumph at Laurel, and last time the gelding rallied from 10 lengths back to win the January 1 Count Fleet S. at Aqueduct by a length. Among the vanquished was Pants on Fire (Jump Start), a head second in the Lecomte S. (G3) in his next start.
BEAMER (Vindication) returns to the sight of his 5 1/2-length maiden triumph for trainer Carl Nafzger, who took the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby (G3) with champion and subsequent Derby hero Street Sense. Beamer exits a Gulfstream allowance contested in the slop where he finished third, beaten 12 1/2 lengths, by the exciting Soldat (War Front).
Trainer Kenny McPeek sends WASHINGTON'S RULES (Roman Ruler) to Tampa on the heels of a one-length maiden score over a mile at Gulfstream on January 22. It was the first outing for the gelding since his second-place finish to subsequent Hopeful S. (G1) runner-up Stay Thirsty (Bernardini) in his August 14 debut at Saratoga.
The remainder of the field will have form to find to upset the aforementioned quartet. Last-out Calder graduate ADULARE (Flatter) might be the most promising of a group that includes stakes winners REPRIZED HALO (Halo's Image), TOO EXPERIENCE (Drewman) and RIBO BOBO (Louis Quatorze), all of whom have been rather exposed. The field is rounded out by WATCH ME GO (West Acre) and LITIGATE (Closing Argument), the top two finishers in a one-turn allowance/optional claimer at Tampa last month.