TimeformUS Road to the Derby: Known Agenda’s form stands out in crowded Sam F. Davis field

Tampa Bay Downs | Race 11 | Post Time 5:02 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
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Smiley Sobotka was installed as the morning line favorite in this full field of runners assembled for the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. Yet I would have to imagine that morning-line fourth choice Known Agenda will be bet down to favoritism by post time. And he would be a deserving public choice.

#3 Known Agenda has run well in all three of his starts thus far in his brief career. He overcame a wide trip to finish second to subsequent stakes winner Highly Motivated in his debut, a solid effort for a horse who clearly wants more ground. He stretched all the way out to 1 1/8 miles for his second start and was incredibly game to fend off Greatest Honour in a final quarter-mile duel down to the wire. That performance was flattered when that rival returned to win his next two starts, including a smashing win last weekend in the Grade 3 Holy Bull. Known Agenda wasn’t as successful in his own graded stakes debut last fall in the Grade 2 Remsen, but he had a valid excuse that day. The inside path was probably not the place to be over that sloppy track, and he never seemed comfortable racing down there in the early portion of the race.

Now Known Agenda has landed in a field where his recent TimeformUS Speed Figures of 104 and 103 make him the horse to beat, and he still has palpable upside given that excuse last time. Furthermore, Todd Pletcher is an outstanding 16-for-35 (46%, $2.42 ROI) over the last 5 years with 3-year-olds in dirt routes at Tampa Bay Downs. This horse is not going to be anywhere near 6-1, but he’s still the most appealing option in this field at a much shorter price.

#5 Smiley Sobotka did pick up a Grade 2 placing in the Kentucky Jockey Club last time out, but that was a fairly weak edition of the race behind the winner, who was just breaking his maiden in that victory. This Dale Romans trainee got a great trip contesting a moderate pace, seemingly had the race won in mid-stretch, but got overhauled late. Horses have not come back out of that race to distinguish themselves, and this colt would need to improve to defeat his Pletcher-trained rival.

Bill Mott has a pair of intriguing contenders in #8 Nova Rags and #9 Candy Man Rocket. I somewhat prefer the former due to his apparent upset and greenly winning the Pasco over this track last time. He also figures to get a better trip than his speedy stablemate.

The race also features a pair of Kentucky-based runners who have been training in Florida over the winter. #1 Hidden Stash seeks his third win in a row after defeating optional claimers when last seen at Churchill Downs. However, it’s a little troubling that he’s failed to switch leads in two consecutive starts, especially considering that he needs to get faster to beat this field. I’d rather use #6 Runway Magic, who impressed me when breaking his maiden two back at Churchill. That was going 7 furlongs, but he finished like a horse who should relish added ground. I’ll use him prominently underneath in exotics.

THE PLAY

Win: 3

Exacta: 3 with 1,5,6,8

Trifecta: 3 with 6 with 1,5,8,9,10

Trifecta: 3 with 1,5,8,9,10 with 6

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