Z Humor deep in the stretch run of the Delta Jackpot (gr. III).

Z Humor deep in the stretch run of the Delta Jackpot (gr. III).

Coady Photography

Z Humor Eager for Sam F. Davis

Z Humor and Smooth Air look to take another step Feb. 16 at Tampa Bay Downs.

Z Humor, a gutsy dead-heat winner in the Dec. 7 Delta Jackpot (gr. III), and Smooth Air, who captured the Jan. 5 Hutcheson (gr. II) but will stretch out beyond seven furlongs for the first time, lead a field of nine in the $200,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes Feb. 16 at Tampa Bay Downs.

The 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis is a test for 3-year-olds on the dirt.

One of five Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hopefuls trained by Bill Mott, Z Humor is a well-bred son of Distorted Humor --Offtheoldblock, by A.P. Indy. After breaking his maiden at Saratoga last summer, he was immediately tested in graded stakes competition, finishing third in both the Sapling (gr. III) and the Champagne (gr. I), where he stayed on stubbornly to take money behind War Pass and Pyro.

After finishing fifth on a sloppy track in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), the bay colt returned to the winner’s circle in the 1 1/16-mile Delta Jackpot. Mott was impressed with how Z Humor not only ran, but came out of that race.

“He’s been doing very well since then,” Mott said. “He’s getting stronger and training eagerly. In fact, the way he’s been acting, he needs this race. It’s not something where we are pushing him.

“(In the Jackpot) he made the lead early and was really the only horse involved in the early pace that finished well. He gutted it out and held on well on a dead racetrack. So that’s encouraging.”

Mott would not commit to any future plans for Z Humor, saying he wanted to see what happens in the Sam F. Davis before mapping out any kind of Triple Crown trail. Bred in Kentucky by Jayeff “B” Stables and owned by Zayat Stables, Z Humor will get a return call from Garrett Gomez.

Mount Joy Stables’ Smooth Air reeled off his second straight victory in the Hutcheson, taking over in upper stretch and edging away late. Trained by Bennie Stutts Jr., the Smooth Jazz colt is 3-1-1 from five starts, all of them sprints in Florida.

If Manoel Cruz decides to keep Smooth Air off the pace, the race could set up perfectly for him because of all the early speed.

That early speed could come from a trio of horses – Honey Honey Honey, Wise Answer, and Fierce Wind –  each with prior wins in gate-to-wire fashion.

Jacks or Better Farm homebred Honey Honey Honey enters off a pair of stakes victories at Tampa Bay and is 5-0-2 from 11 lifetime starts for trainer Stanley Gold.

J.D. Farms’ homebred Wise Answer was seventh in his last out, the Jan. 1 Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT), but that was his lone start on turf. In October, the Wised Up colt won the Florida Stallion In Reality Stakes by 10 lengths.

Fierce Wind, trained by Nick Zito, not only showed early speed in a Jan. 21 allowance test at Gulfstream, but drew away impressively in the 1 1/8-mile event. The Dixie Union colt, owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds, was purchased for $300,000 as a 2-year-old.

$200,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (Race 10, 4:52 p.m.), Three-Year-Olds, 1 1/16-Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Wise Answer (FL), 122, Jose Lezcano
2. Celtic Meal (FL), 116, Andrew R. Ramgeet
3. Wonder Mon (MD), 116, Travis L. Dunkelberger
4. Fierce Wind (KY), 116, Cornelio H. Velasquez
5. Dynamic Wayne (IL), 116, Pablo Morales
6. Big Truck (NY), 116, Eibar Coa
7. Smooth Air (FL), 118, Manoel R. Cruz
8. Z Humor (KY), 122, Garrett K. Gomez
9. Honey Honey Honey (FL), 120, Jose E. Lopez