This past Saturday, the $250,000 Grade III - Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs showcased 11 prospective three-year-olds with their eyes on a shot at the Kentucky Derby in May. Most three-year-olds running in graded stakes races have won earlier in their careers.
Kentucky-based trainer Eddie Kenneally had the option of sending his Triple Crown nominee, Battle Hardened, off to Gulfstream Park to run in a race specifically for maidens (horses which have not won a race). Or, he could've taken the risky route, sent his horse to Tampa Bay and aimed for the all-important graded earnings needed to climb into Derby contention.
Kenneally decided on Tampa, and he and Battle Hardened struck gold on the quick, sandy surface. The three-year-old chestnut colt by Giant's Causeway out of Northern Fashion mare Jen's Fashion, went the one-mile in 1:44.58 and won by 1 1/4 lengths to break his maiden.
Battle Hardened was purchased for $170,000 at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton yearling sale. He had three previous starts as a two-year-old and finished second twice. It is important to note that he did have a nice showing on the Churchill Downs surface on Nov. 26, 2011, where he finished second behind undefeated two-year-old Indian Ambush.
Co-favorite Prospective inched out fourth betting-choice Reveron for second place. Todd Pletcher trainee and the other co-favorite, Escabroni, finished dead last after being taken up shortly after the break and running evenly thereafter.
Look for Battle Hardened to take the "Tampa Two-Step" and shoot for a win in what could be the final leg of his Triple Crown preparations, the Grade II - Tampa Bay Derby from Tampa Bay Downs on March 10, 2012.
Although, it is not unprecedented to take an eight-week break before running in the Derby, it is completely possible that if Battle Hardened wins his next start, he could race in the Blue Grass Stakes from Keeneland in early April. Kenneally's home is in Kentucky, so it wouldn't be a surprise if he takes Battled Hardened back for another start.
Stay tuned for more pre-Derby prep races each weekend.
$2 Mutuel Prices
#3 Battle Hardened $11.00 $5.60 $4.40
#11 Prospective $5.20 $3.60
#10 Reveron $3.60
Exacta = $62.00
Trifecta = $369.40
Superfecta = $2561.30