Todd Pletcher-trained Vinceremos dug in gamely in deep stretch to hold off a stiff challenge from his more highly-regarded stablemate Harpoon to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 1 (VIDEO).
One of a record 42 early Triple Crown nominations for Pletcher announced earlier in the day Feb. 1, Vinceremos went off at 12-1 odds in the Davis as Harpoon was made the slight 9-5 second choice in the eight-horse field.
Jockey Edgar Prado settled Vinceremos just off the lead taken by Cousin Stephen out of the gate as Noble Cornerstone, the slight favorite, and jockey Kent Desormeaux broke poorly and race in last early.
Cousin Stephen and Vinceremos were neck and neck through an opening quarter in :24.35 over a drying out track and got the half-mile in :48.77. As the field rounded the second turn, Vinceremos backed up to fourth before coming on again on the rail and held a short lead at the furlong marker.
Meanwhile, Harpoon and Luis Saez, sixth after three-quarters of a mile, rallied while four wide entering the stretch and moved farther out to unleash a stirring stretch drive that just came up short.
Vinceremos completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:47.34, well off the track record of 1:42.83, and paid $26.80, $7.40, and $4.80. Harpoon was a nose back and paid $4.60 and $3.40, with Cousin Stephen three-quarters of a length back in third, returning $3.40. The order was completed by Matadoor, Asserting Bear, School On a Hill, Noble Cornerstone, and Imaginethaymom.
"He was relaxed and I was confident that he would be there for me when I asked," Prado said of the ride. "The pace picked up getting into the turn but I didn't want to use what we had that soon so I let them get away from us. Entering the stretch there was still room on the inside and he responded when I set him down. He was still going strong to the finish, but I knew it would be close."
"That was really amazing. It looked like he was dropping back and was done for the day, and all of a sudden there he was," said assistant trainer Ginny DePasquale. "Then (Pletcher's other trainee, Harpoon) came running on the outside. A dead heat would have been perfect. You never know when they are going to step up to the plate and (Vinceremos) obviously did at the right time."
A 3-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile —Kettles Sister (by More Than Ready ), Vinceremos was bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall and races for WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables. Consigned by Dapple Stud to the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale, the colt was purchased by Oregon Bloodstock for $140,000. Pinhooked into the 2013 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale, the Davis winner was acquired by Twin Creeks for $340,000.
Randy Gullatt, racing manager for co-owner Twin Creeks Racing Stables, said: "Edgar didn't want to make the lead too quick with him because he wants to wait on other horses. If he has a target, Edgar says he digs in, and you just have to be patient and not make the lead too quick. He said he could have gotten away from him on the turn, but he had to wait on those other horses to get by so he had a target. It was a great job on Edgar's part. We're learning about him every time. I would think the Tampa Bay Derby is the next logical race and if he is doing well, that would be Todd (Pletcher's) choice."
By earning $120,000 of the $200,000 purse (there was an additional $50,000 for which Florida-breds qualified), Vinceremos improved his bankroll to $153,600, with two wins and a second in three lifetime starts. The colt finished second at Gulfstream Park in his career debut and broke his maiden going a mile as the 3-2 favorite at Gulfstream Jan. 4.
With the victory, Vinceremos qualifies for the "Tampa Bay Downs Million Dollar Bonus" in which $1 million will be awarded the owner of any horse winning the Davis, the March 8 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), and the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The Davis last year was part of newly created "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points system, with Falling Sky being awarded 10 points. The Davis was dropped from the Derby points scheme this year, with the Tampa Bay Derby worth 50 points.
In the race previous to the Davis, Niall Racing's Please Explain took charge turning for home to draw off for a six-length triumph in the Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Curlin ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Tom Proctor, sat just off the pace and saved ground to get into contention down the backside before making her winning move as the 3-2 favorite in the eight-horse field.
Final time for 1-mile-and-40-yards over a drying out Tampa Bay track was 1:44.94. Finishing second was Nesso, with Light Bringer third.
The victory improved Please Explain's record to 2-2-1 from five starts, with earnings of $78,200.