Asserting Bear winning the Coronation Futurity at Woodbine (Michael Burns/WEG).
The latest renewal of the Sam F. Davis Stakes doesn't feature many buzz horses pointing toward the Kentucky Derby. In fact, it's hard to even predict who the favorite will be when the starting gates open for this $250,000 Derby prep race at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. While the lack of any clear standouts in this field might detract from the race’s overall appeal, such parity can often lend itself to some valuable wagering opportunities.
Since many of these hoses are unknown commodities, I’m going to take a low-risk/high-reward approach to betting the Sam F. Davis. Here are a couple of ways to bet no more than $20 on the Sam Davis and potentially turn your investment into a $100-plus return.
Strategy A — BET IT ALL ON ONE HORSE
$20 to win on #6 Asserting Bear
While I can't guarantee that you'll get more than 4-to-1 on Asserting Bear, odds near that range should ensure you a $100 return if and when this horse wins this race. He’s one of two horses shipping in from Woodbine and appears to be the stronger of the pair (the other is #8 Matador). Asserting Bear hasn't had a race on a conventional dirt main track but his efforts on turf and synthetic surfaces indicate he’ll be up with the pace and that he can make this 1 1/16-mile distance.
Asserting Bear has tired in a few races but he’s shown more stamina of late and even displayed a bit of tactical speed while rating off the pace in his last race. In this spot, Asserting Bear figures to be clear on the lead, especially with the addition of blinkers (which is generally an indication that a horse who has some early speed will be sent for the lead right from the break). Reade Baker is an extremely sharp trainer who wins at a high rate off a layoff (24%) and adding blinkers (40%). This one represents some potential value, and if I were to a make a straight win bet, this is the horse I'd go with.
Strategy B — PLAY AN EXACTA
$5 Exacta 1, 6 over 1, 4, 6 ($20 total bet)
I’ve already made the case for Asserting Bear but I think #1 Harpoon and #4 Vinceremos also have big shots in here. Harpoon had a serious case of seconditis, finishing in the runner-up spot in his first three races. But this son of Tapit didn't leave anything to chance in his most recent race when he pulled away from a field of more than a dozen horses and broke his maiden (won his first race) by 5 1/2 lengths. The horses he beat haven't come back to do much, but Harpoon does seem to be rounding into form. Again, he looked really great in that last race running from just off the pace under returning rider Luis Saez. If he can work out a clean trip, he should be tough in this spot.
Vinceremos has the kind of pedigree (by Pioneer of the Nile, out of a More Than Ready mare) and connections (Winstar owned, Todd Pletcher trained) that make him a legitimate player here. Winstar and Pletcher have won four of the last seven runnings of this race. Vinceramos also comes out of a nice maiden-breaking score in which he did encounter plenty of trouble. Resilience is a key trait to look for in these developing 3-year-olds, and I think it's a good sign that he showed some ability to overcome adversity in that last race.
Strategy C — GO FOR THE GOLD
$1 Trifecta Key 6 over 1, 4, 7 over ALL ($18 total bet)
Trifectas are one of the riskiest propositions in horse betting but they often return a pretty nice payout. Additionally, we're essentially turning our trifecta bet into an exacta play by going with “all” horses in the third spot. We'll enjoy our most lucrative return if Asserting Bear wins followed by #7 School On a Hill (a 12-to-1 longshot on the morning-line odds), in the second spot. I like to see leading local jockey Ronnie Allen Jr. getting the ride on School On a Hill, and the horse has shown some ability. The main knock on him is that he doesn't have much early speed and it’s hard to envision any horse being able to close from too far out of it in this race. There just doesn't seem to be much speed up front, which is one of the main reasons to like Asserting Bear.