In registering a 2 1/4-length victory over stakes winner Rafting in the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds, the Twin Creeks Racing Stables runner secured the first stakes win of his young career.
Mercedes Stables' Morning Fire, recent winner of the Pasco, attempted to secure a second straight stakes win as he broke well and went right to the lead under Daniel Centeno. Meanwhile Rafting, who was making his first start since winning the Smooth Air Stakes in November at Gulfstream Park West, bumped Whatawonderflworld at the start and raced fifth of six early.
Morning Fire cruised through a quarter-mile in :23.92 and a half-mile in :48.16 while Destin and John Velazquez tracked in fourth. Velazquez asked for more from Destin in the far turn and the son of Giant's Causeway rallied three wide, then engaged the early leader just after six furlongs in 1:12.95.
Rafting also had made up ground in the turn and attempted to rally on the outside, but Destin was up to that challenge, completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.67 on a fast track with Rafting second and Morning Fire holding third. The win gives trainer Todd Pletcher his sixth Sam F. Davis score.
While Saturday's race did not offer Road to the Kentucky Derby points, Twin Creeks team manager Randy Gullatt said he believes Destin can continue to progress this winter and spring.
"We are just tickled pink. John (Velazquez) said he was still extremely green in this race, but if we can get him to learn something and keep his mind on running the whole time, I think he will take another step forward," Gullatt said. "I think he definitely wants to go longer. He is bred to run all day long. He just has to keep his mind on running."
Velazquez said Destin won despite being green.
"He was green in everything—looking at the horses sideways, and when he got to the quarter-pole he didn't know what to do and I had to get after him," Velazquez said. "At least he put in a nice run, but he didn't go forward to get away from the horses; just kind if waited and not really running the way he was supposed to, but still good enough to win today. He has to put his mind into the business."
Bred in Kentucky by James C. Weigel & Taylor Made Stallions, Destin entered the Sam F. Davis off a fourth-place finish in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 16 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, which had been his stakes debut.
"I think he took a giant step forward from his New Orleans race (fourth in the LeComte). Knowing his history, I was a little concerned he didn't really seem like he was going to go on, and John said 'OK, we're going to do this now.' He kept at him and he kept him between horses where he was more focused," said Ginny DePasquale, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "We gave him a new type of blinker—he had the French-cup before, and we put on blinkers with the little peeps in them where he could kind of look around and see the other horses instead of stopping and waiting."
Out of grade I winner Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer, Destin is a full brother to classic-placed Grade I winner Creative Cause . Twin Creeks landed the colt for $400,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, where he was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency.
"I really loved his pedigree (at the Keeneland 2014 Yearling Sale); we have had a lot of luck with Giant's Causeway horses, and he was a very athletic and well-put together colt," Gullatt said.
Destin returned $10 to win, $3.80 to place, and $3 to show. Rafting paid $4.20 and $3 to place and show while Morning Fire returned $3.