When trainer Arnaud Delacour saddles No Dozing for the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) Feb. 11 at Tampa Bay Downs, it could mark an early step toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
In looking for his first Derby starter, Delacour will use a familiar road. He previously used the Tampa Bay Downs route with promising 3-year-old Divining Rod, who would earn the trainer his first classic placing when third in the 2015 Preakness Stakes (G1).
Like No Dozing, Divining Rod made his 3-year-old season debut in the Sam F. Davis, where he finished second to Stonestreet’s Ocean Knight. The son of Tapit then ran third in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) behind grade 1 winner Carpe Diem . Divining Rod came off those two races to win the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland before his third-place finish to eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Preakness.
Delacour seems to learn a great deal about his runners not from their wins, but from their defeats, and Lael Stables’ No Dozing is just such an example. After winning his first two races at Delaware Park and Laurel Park at sprint distances, Delacour felt No Dozing had shown talent and potential but the trainer thought the Union Rags colt still had to prove he could race around two turns and handle stakes-level competition.
He entered No Dozing in the grade 1, $500,000 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. In his first stakes start and first try around two turns No Dozing didn’t win, but his fourth-place Futurity performance answered a lot of Delacour’s questions about the colt’s stamina, heart, and ability.
At the start of the Futurity, No Dozing was bumped and bothered out of the gate. That incident left him back in the field but the colt raced up along the outside before being steadied by jockey Joe Bravo. Then going into the second turn No Dozing made a move outside and was actually almost head and head with eventual winner Classic Empire before No Dozing’s early troubles may have caught up with him.
Classic Empire kicked on to win the Futurity on his way to a championship season but No Dozing finished a respectable fourth, just a head out of third. No Dozing’s performance despite troubles told his connections they had a colt of substance.
“Yes his (No Dozing’s) race at Keeneland confirmed what we had thought all along,” Delacour said. “The fact he didn’t give it up after the gate problems and rushing up told me a lot about his courage. Then he ran right to Classic Empire, who had had a perfect trip to that point, and that showed us a lot. Classic Empire was a deserving champion but our colt ran a very commendable race to him, all things considered.”
Delacour said No Dozing’s been doing well since coming to Tampa from Fair Hill, training in forward fashion. Those morning efforts have followed a juvenile season finale in which he finished second to Mo Town in the Remsen Stakes (G2) Nov. 26 at Aqueduct Racetrack. In that race No Dozing bore out into the backstretch before running on to finish second. Delacour doesn’t think the Remsen issues will repeat themselves in the maturing colt.
“We’ve worked him behind horses and with horses on both sides and he hasn’t done a thing so I’m chalking that incident up to perhaps a shadow or something he saw on the track,” Delacour said. “We’ve got a series of good breezes in him, he’s filled out a bit, and he’s always been an intelligent sort. Now hopefully he’ll be able to take that next step.
“There are some really nice colts around like Graham’s horse that won (the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes, Irish War Cry). It would be great if he (No Dozing ) could show he can compete at that level.”