McCraken makes seasonal debut in Sam F. Davis

The Sam F. Davis Stakes, the local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby, is the Saturday feature at Tampa Bay Downs. It’s a Grade III, 1 1/16th-mile event worth $250,000 to Kentucky Derby-minded three-year-olds. Undefeated MCCRAKEN leads a field of nine in pursuit of valuable Derby points (10 to the winner down to one for fourth). Post time for the Sam F. Davis, Race 10 on the program, is 4:45 p.m. EST. Don’t forget to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#8 MCCRAKEN (2-1, morning-line favorite) is 3-for-3 lifetime and has gotten better in each start, including his authoritative score in the Kentucky Jockey Club last time out. He’s training well for his 2017 debut for Ian Wilkes, and he’ll have the services of Brian Hernandez Jr. again. MCCRAKEN stands out on speed figures and projects to get a fast pace to close into. Unless he doesn’t fire over this surface, he’ll be very tough to beat.

#9 NO DOZING (4-1) started poorly in the Breeders’ Futurity before racing wide behind Mo Town in the Remsen. A clean trip under Daniel Centeno would give him a decent chance to post the upset here. However, he’s never won beyond six furlongs.

#6 WILD SHOT (5-1) gets a jockey switch to Robby Albarado for his 2017 unveiling. He set a fast pace two-back in the Breeders’ Futurity before fading to Eclipse winner Classic Empire, then was reeled in by MCCRAKEN in the Kentucky Jockey Club before hitting the shelf. He should work out a good stalking trip outside #1 STATE OF HONOR and #3 FACT FINDING. He’ll likely turn for home with the lead, but it’s hard to trust him on top without a route win to his credit.

#3 FACT FINDING (9-2) lands here after scratching out of last week’s Holy Bull. Todd Pletcher wanted to find a softer spot for FACT FINDING’s season debut, but that plan appears to have backfired. John Velazquez will have his hands full rationing FACT FINDING’s early speed while trying to hold off the closers.

The play: $4 exacta 8/6,9, $2 exacta 8/3 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Jockeys that ship to an unfamiliar track usually just ride a race or two, but not John Velazquez. He’ll ride in eight races at Tampa this Saturday, including the Sam F. Davis (FACT FINDING). All of his mounts are 9-2 or below in odds, so he figures to have a very productive day.

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