Sam F. Davis-Grade 3 (Tampa Bay Downs) February 11
Winner: LITIGATE (Sire: Blame, Dam: Salsa Diavola)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: L. Saez
Owner: Centennial Farms
Distance / time: 1 1/16 miles / 1:44 4/5 Track: Wet Fast
Win margin: 1 ¼ lengths
Wizard’s Track Bias: Speed favoring 3 / 5
Wizard’s Pace Analysis: Quick
Wizard’s Strength of Race: 1 / 5
LITIGATE broke sharply from post 11 to secure an inside position rating comfortably in second in the 2 path into the clubhouse turn. Jockey Luis Saez was content to ease him into the 4 path on the backstretch, dropping back to 5th. On the far turn, Saez asked Litigate to make his move and he responded on cue to challenge the 43-1 pacesetter ZYDECEAUX turning for home. Litigate edged clear at the 1/16th pole to a narrow lead and had enough left to keep 21-1 shot GROVELAND at bay to the wire, winning by 1 ¼ lengths.
Litigate is an improving horse who was making his first start around 2-turns. The waters will get deeper in his next start which is likely going to be the Tampa Bay Derby. He’s clearly the second string of trainer Todd Pletcher’s Derby hopefuls. There’s no indication from his winning race that he has the class and will be effective going 1 ¼ miles to consider him a Kentucky Derby contender.
Groveland ran just as well in defeat as Litigate did in victory. He broke sharply and quickly found the rail to chase a close-up 4th on the backstretch. Jockey Daniel Centeno made his move on the far turn. He wanted to slip through to challenge the pacesetter, but the hole wasn’t there. Centeno tapped on the breaks, steadying Groveland back, losing valuable momentum. He regained his best stride in mid-stretch but was unable to keep pace with the winner in deep stretch, finishing 1 ¼ length back. Just after the wire, Groveland galloped past the winner, indicating he was the fresher horse after the race. He’s an improving 3-year-old who can compete successfully at this level but is not a Kentucky Derby contender.
There is nothing to suggest that any of the other starters in the Sam Davis are Kentucky Derby prospects.