Unbeaten Independence Hall Favorite in Kentucky Derby Preps Stakes Race at Tampa Bay Downs

Posted on: February 8, 2020, 11:47h. 

Last updated on: February 9, 2020, 10:01h.

There’s only one Kentucky Derby prep race this weekend, and it will take place Saturday afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs, which hosts the 40th running of the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes.

Independence Hall, seen here running away in the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct, is the morning-line favorite to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. (Image: NYRA)

Because of a late scratch, a field of 7 will run a mile-and-a-sixteenth with the winner getting 10 points toward qualifying for the May 2 Derby.

The morning-line favorite is Independence Hall. The Michael Trombetta-trained colt is undefeated in three races, including two stakes races. His most impressive victory came in November’s Grade III Nashua Stakes, where he romped by more than 12 lengths at Aqueduct.

Independence Hall ran at 9-1 odds on Nov. 3. He’ll be nowhere near that on Saturday afternoon as his odds started at 6-5. He’ll break from the fourth gate and be ridden by Jose Ortiz.

Post time for the Sam F. Davis is scheduled for 5:29 pm ET.

Premier Star Stepping Up

The main competition for Independence Hall comes from two other entries, one who is also undefeated and another who has finished in the money in a graded stakes race.

Premier Star comes up from Gulfstream, where he’s won a maiden and an allowance race. He’ll step up in class Saturday, but trainer Jorge Navarro likes how his horse has been working out lately. With jockey John Velazquez on him last Saturday, he covered four furlongs in just 48 seconds.

He added that the Sam F. Davis was always the target for his 3-year-old.

I think he will be on his ‘A’ game,” Navarro said in a Tampa Bay Downs news release. “When he broke his maiden, Tampa Bay Downs was our main goal.”

The Sam F. Davis will be the third graded stakes race for Ajaaweed. In his last race, the Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct, he lost by a half-length to Shotski, who ran second last Saturday in the Grade III Withers at the New York track.

The shorter distance (the Remsen was a mile and an eighth) might not work best for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s entry, who, based on his past performances, seems to be geared toward closing at longer distances.

Velazquez will get the call on Premier Star again on Saturday. He’ll break from the sixth gate and is the current second choice with morning-line odds of 3-1.

Joel Rosario will ride Ajaaweed, who will start from the inside gate. His morning-line odds are 4-1.

Risen Star to Split Field Next Week

Next week will feature three Kentucky Derby prep races, and one of them will run in two divisions.

Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans announced on Saturday that the Grade II Risen Star will have two races because of the number of entries scheduled to run. The Grade II stakes race was scheduled to be the first 50-point race in the Derby prep season. Now, the winners of each division will claim 50 points apiece.

The winners may likely square off in the March 21 Louisiana Derby, also held at the Fair Grounds.