WinStar Farm’s Rule led at every call and further cemented himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contender with a convincing three-length win in the $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 13 at Tampa Bay Downs.
A 3-year-old son of Roman Ruler , Rule notched his fourth consecutive victory and his third straight stakes score with his front-running effort. The dark bay or brown colt was making his season debut after taking the Delta Jackpot (gr. III) by a neck Dec. 4. He is trained by Todd Pletcher.
After an even break in a field of just six, Rule gained the advantage going into the first turn under John Velazquez and remained on the front end through the backstretch while setting a legitimate pace of :23.71 for the opening quarter and :47.72 for a half-mile. Middle of the Nite and Schoolyard Dreams pressed the pace, while Tristen's Mambo, Silver Craft, and second choice Uptowncharlybrown were farther back.
Rule still led when they approached the final turn, but Schoolyard Dreams made his bid from the outside and took on the even-money favorite as they turned for home. Those two dueled briefly at the top of the lane, but it wasn’t long before Rule began to inch away and by mid-stretch he had put the race away. He stopped the clock in a final time of 1:44.15 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track.
Schoolyard Dreams and Cornelio Velasquez were a length ahead of Uptowncharlybrown for second.
“This is a colt with a lot of natural talent and this race will do him a lot of good,” Velazquez said. “I thought the inside was running good today, but I really didn't want him to get away from the field until I was ready. I want him to learn to run with other horses, so when he took that challenge from the outside getting to the turn it was what I wanted. Then I asked him in the turn and he came away nicely and I didn't have to do much with him in the stretch.”
Rule, who is out of the Personal Flag mare Rockcide, has already earned $716,700 from just six starts. His other stakes win came in the one-mile Jean Lafitt back in November at Delta Downs.
“It was a great first start of the year, and we’re excited, because he’s one of several that we hope are going to keep improving,” said WinStar president Doug Cauthen. "We talked about (rating him more) and we hoped that there was going to be a chance and we’d go for it; but he broke and (Velazquez) said if he leads me there, I’ll let him take me."
Rule could be headed to the Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park on March 20 for his final Kentucky Derby prep.
“He’s probably not going to come back for the Tampa Bay Derby; we’re probably going to make his next start in a grade I," Pletcher said. "But I will bring something here (for the grade III Tampa Bay Derby on March 13.)”
The winner paid $4, $2.80, and $2.20. The exacta (1-2) returned $20.60 and the trifecta (1-2-6) was $40.
Silver Craft finished fourth, followed by Middle of the Nite, and Tristen’s Mambo. African Moon was scratched.