Up until this point, most of the attention on Todd Pletcher’s stable of 3-year-olds has centered around juvenile champion Uncle Mo and the grade I-placed Stay Thirsty. But should Brethren run big in the $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 12 at Tampa Bay Downs, the WinStar Farm homebred is sure to join the mix as a serious Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contender.
A two-for-two start last year including a win at Churchill Downs and being a half brother to WinStar’s 2010 Derby winner Super Saver already has people excited about Brethren, who is by Distorted Humor. The bay colt will take on nine rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race, which will be Brethren's first around two turns. His main competition may come from Beamer, third in a solid first-level allowance race last month at Gulfstream Park, Count Fleet Stakes winner Monzon, and impressive maiden winner Washington's Rules.
Post time for the Sam Davis, which is a prep for the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), is set for 4:25 p.m. EST.
Brethren, who is out of the A.P. Indy mare Supercharger, broke his maiden at Belmont Park in October going six furlongs and came back the following month to win a one-turn mile allowance contest at Churchill by 1 3/4 lengths. He has spent much of the winter with Pletcher at Palm Meadows gearing up for the start of his sophomore campaign, his last breeze coming Feb. 6 when working five furlongs in 1:01.
Eclipse Award-winning jockey, Ramon Dominguez, will fly in from New York for the mount. They will break from post 10.
“He has a lot of similarities to Super Saver,” said WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden. “Both showed a lot of talent at 2. Even though Super Saver had accomplished more, they eaned very similar Ragozin numbers. We’re certainly as excited about him as we were Super Saver at this time last year. Now, what happens between now and May remains to be seen.”
One interesting dilemma that may present itself should Brethren run well in the Sam Davis is where he would go next. Often times the Sam Davis winner would point to the Tampa Bay Derby, however, since 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo—also trained by Pletcher—is also being pointed to that race, would the connections of Brethren want to face the early Kentucky Derby favorite?
“We’ll see how it goes after Saturday,” Walden said. “But you can look at it two ways: We’ve never been scared to run an entry (with the same trainer) before, but we also have a lot of respect for the talent of Uncle Mo. We don’t have any definitive plan yet.”
Walden also mentioned there is no concrete plan for another promising WinStar 3-year-old trained by Pletcher, Cal Nation, who broke his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths Feb. 5. Walden left open the option the son of Distorted Humor could run in a stakes for his next start and said the Kentucky Derby isn't an impossible goal, but ruled out the Feb. 26 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) as a possibility.
“We’re not going to force things with him,” Walden said.
WinStar and Pletcher have won three of the last five runnings of the Sam Davis with Bluegrass Cat in 2007, Any Given Saturday in 2007, and Rule last year.
Jim Tafel’s homebred Beamer ran his best race in three lifetime starts at Tampa Bay when breaking his maiden by 5 1/2 lengths Dec. 30. He came back to run a distant third to Soldat in a nine-furlong allowance race Jan. 21 at Gulfstream, but that was on a sloppy track. The son of Vindication has had a pair of nice works for trainer Carl Nafzger since that last effort. He will be ridden by Leandro Goncalves.
Sagamore Farm’s Monzon will be racing at his seventh different racetrack in as many starts when he goes to post. A 12 1/2-length maiden winner at Laurel Park last summer, he raced three times on turf before winning the New Year’s Day Count Fleet at Aqueduct. Edgar Prado will keep the mount on the Maryland-bred gelding by Thunder Gulch.
Ken McPeek trainee Washington’s Rules made a huge closing move to rally for a one-mile maiden win at Gulfstream Jan. 22. It was the second start for the Roman Ruler gelding, who will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux
Rusty Arnold was considering running Pasco Stakes third-place finisher Depeche Chat, but will instead go with Adulare, a Flatter colt who broke his maiden last month at Calder.
Also in the field is Reprized Halo, who defeated Gourmet Dinner at 46-1 in the Florida Stallion In Reality Stakes in October, and Too Experience, winner of the Seacliff Stakes last summer at Calder.
Also on the 12-race card are the $125,000 Endeavour Stakes (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares, and the $125,000 Florida Oaks, which will be run on on turf for the first time. The Florida Oaks drew a field of 12 including 7-2 morning-line favorite Fancy Point.
$225,000 Sam F. Davis (gr. III, Race 10, 4:25 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Reprized Halo (FL),F Z Maysonett, 120, M J Azpurua
2. Adulare (KY), A O Solis, 116, G R Arnold, II
3. Washington's Rules (KY), K J Desormeaux, 116, K G McPeek
4. Too Experience (FL), D Centeno, 120, M Passley
5. Watch Me Go (FL), L Garcia, 116, K O'Connell
6. Litigate (NY), J Valdivia Jr., 116, D P Duggan
7. Beamer (KY), L R Goncalves, 116, C A Nafzger
8. Monzon (MD), E S Prado, 116, I Correas, IV
9. Ribo Bobo (FL), D Coa, 116, M J Azpurua
10. Brethren (KY), R A Dominguez, 116, T A Pletcher