Battle Hardened, given a patient ride by Julien Leparoux, earned the first win of his career when he defeated a big field in the $200,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs (VIDEO).
Stalking the pace in fourth on the inside much of the way, Battle Hardened pounced on Reveron just past mid-stretch after angling out and held on gamely to win the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths. Prospective, the 7-2 second choice, won a three-way photo for second by a nose, with Reveron third also by a nose. Ravelo's Boy settled for fourth in the 11-horse field. The final time was 1:44.58 on a fast track.
Eddie Kenneally trains Battle Hardened, a son of Giant's Causeway owned by Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier. Lakeside Farm bred the chestnut colt in Kentucky. Out of the Northern Fashion mare Jen's Fashion, Battle Hardened sold for $170,00 at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale.
“This was a really good bunch of quality horses, but no stars, and that was one reason we decided to take a shot today," Kenneally said. "We had also entered him in a (maiden race) at Gulfstream today but he’s been training brilliantly and we were happy with how he was coming into the race, so we decided to come here and get some of the big money."
Kenneally said he'll strongly consider the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) March 10 for Battle Hardened's next start.
State of Play, a grade II winner on turf making his first start on dirt, set the pace from his inside post over Fox Rules and Reveron, clipping off fractions of :23.79 and :47.81. Reveron, three-wide on the outside, edged up to the leaders as they completed six furlongs in 11:12.55 and took the lead into the stretch as State of Play gave way.
Reveron opened up a short advantage in the lane but could not hold on when challenged on the outside by Battle Hardened, who rallied four wide out of the turn and got the lead leaving the furlong pole. He finished up under some urging from Leparoux.
“He broke good and put me in the right spot right away," said Leparoux, who rode Battle Hardened for the first time. "In a big field, I knew we’d be in traffic. So when he settled near the inside he relaxed the way I wanted him to. I was inside, and then on the second turn, I was able to get out and this horse has a long stride and he kept going."
Prospective, fifth at the eighth pole after being hung wide on the far turn, closed fast for Luis Contreras to get up for second over Reveron, the Gulfstream Park Derby winner whose three-race winning streak came to an end. Ecabroni, the slight 7-2 choice, took up after the break and finished last.
Battle Hardened, making his fourth start, came into the Sam Davis off a second-place effort in a 1 1/8-mile maiden test in which he finished a head behind Big Screen at Gulfstream Dec. 31. He debuted with a fourth-place finish at Churchill Downs Oct. 30 and also ran second at Churchill in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Churchill Nov. 26. His initial victory was worth $120,000, boosting his career total to $138,855.
The winner carried 116 pounds and paid $11, $5.60, and $4.40 as the third favorite. Grade III winner Prospective, winner of Tampa Bay's Pasco Stakes Jan. 14 for trainer Mark Casse, returned $5.20 and $3.60. The exacta was worth $62. Reveron paid $3.60 to show.
Ravelo's Boy was followed by Neck 'n Neck, Fox Rules, State of Play, Burning Time, Moroccan Brew, Holy Highway, and Ecabroni.