Catholic Boy should be convincing winner of Sam F. Davis

The Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, the local stepping stone to the Tampa Bay Derby, is the Saturday feature at Tampa Bay Downs. A field of seven Kentucky Derby aspirants will assemble for this 1 1/16th-mile heat. Post time for the Sam F. Davis, the 10th of 12 races on the card, is 4:52 p.m. EST. Several noteworthy jockeys will ship in for this, so pay careful attention if playing FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#6 CATHOLIC BOY (8-5, morning-line favorite) won the Grade II Remsen last time out, beating Avery Island (last week’s Withers winner) by over four lengths in the process. He’ll likely be favored here off that stellar performance, which is his lone dirt effort to date. He’s trained very well for this and once again has the services of jockey Manny Franco. The Sam F. Davis is CATHOLIC BOY’s race to lose.

#1 NAVY ARMED GUARD (15-1), the lone maiden in the field, may offer solid odds underneath. He placed second in his last two dirt starts, including one over this course last time out in which he spun for home five-wide. His other runner-up outing came behind the well-regarded Mississippi. The tune-up work for this was sharp, and he retains regular pilot Jesus Castanon.

#3 VINO ROSSO (3-1) could be on or near a very slow pace here. He encountered a similar setup last time out and made light work of a weak allowance field over this course. Trainer Todd Pletcher has picked his spots wisely at Tampa this year (6-4-2-0), so expect VINO ROSSO to run well here. John Velazquez will be aboard.

#5 HOLLYWOOD STAR (5-2) was soundly beaten when last seen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. However, he has a nice two-year-old résumé overall (second in two Grade IIs) and gets a drop in class today. He’s also been working well in the mornings for Dale Romans, who names Joel Rosario to ride once more.

The play: $2 trifecta 6/1,3,5/1,3,5 ($12)

DFJ analysis: Manny Franco and John Velazquez look like ‘must-haves’ this week. Franco has just five mounts but all are single-digit odds, including morning-line favorite CATHOLIC BOY in the Sam F. Davis.

Velazquez has the call on the program’s likeliest winner, World Approval, in the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes. That race immediately follows the Sam F. Davis, where Velazquez has a live mount in VINO ROSSO. He rides in four additional races and has the favorite in three of them.

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