Rule captured the 30th running of the Grade III $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, which headlined Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South. Rule, a three-year-old son of Roman Ruler, captured his fourth lifetime win for owner/breeder WinStar Farm and trainer Todd Pletcher under reinsman Johnny Velazquez. This is the third time the combination of WinStar Farm, Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez has won the Sam F. Davis Stakes; the trio also captured the 2006 edition with Bluegrass Cat and the 2007 running with Any Given Saturday.
Rule led throughout the early panels of the Sam F. Davis Stakes and drew away to win by a 3 length margin. Schoolyard Dreams was second and Uptowncharlybrown rounded out the trifecta, which yielded $40 for a $2 wager.
Doug Cauthen President of WinStar said of Rule’s race, “It was great first effort for the year; I think he learned a lot. Johnny (Velazquez) was saying that he started looking around when he got to the lead and just messed around a little bit. That’ll be information that he and Todd (Pletcher) use – to use blinkers or whether it’s just waiting a little bit longer (to gain the lead). But 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.
“We talked about (rating him more today), and we hoped that there was going to be a chance and we’d go for it; but he broke and he (Johnny Velazquez) said if he leads me there, I’ll let him take me. But they went in :23.3, almost :23.4, so he just had to hold his position. I think Johnny honestly made the right move, because he had to hold that spot, because if he had to go back, he could have got into trouble. It looked like speed was holding, like it was a fair track, and you could be on the lead or be behind it. The next thing is that he was right there with the pressure, and he wasn’t nervous or anything – he handled it. So he did rate; he just rated beside a horse instead of being two or three lengths behind.
“It was good; it’s what you want to see – the horse improves and has the tenacity… as Johnny said, that he kind got the lead and just sort of started messing around a little and then he got out there and was looking for more competition. But it was a great first start, and it was nice to be back here. We’ve been to Tampa a lot, starting back with Bluegrass Cat and Any Given Saturday, and we like it her. It’s a good place to get the year started out – it’s a lot of fun when you win.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher said of Rule’s race, “It just what we were hoping for. He finished up very gamely with his ears pricked at the wire. 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. But I will bring something here (for the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby.”
Winning Jockey John Velazquez was very happy with the way the race unfolded. "This is a colt with a lot of natural talent and this race will do him a lot of good. 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."
Daniel Centeno thought Uptowncharlybrown ran "A pretty good race. I took him back and he seemed comfortable with that; it was his first time doing two turns so we had to learn some things. The leaders got away from us in the upper stretch but getting to the wire he seemed to pick it up again and he finished up well. I would like to have won this one but it there are lots of races ahead for a colt with this much ability."