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Queen’s Plate hopefuls to square off in Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs

February 10, 2017

TORONTO, February 10 – Mark Casse will saddle a pair of Queen’s Plate contenders when King and His Court and State of Honor square off in Saturday’s Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, at Tampa Bay Downs.
The duo ran one-two in the $250,000 Coronation Futurity at Woodbine on November 13 when King and His Court rallied from off the pace to collar the front-running State of Honor for a 2 1/2-length score.
Both have made one start since that event with King and His Court scoring a 1 3/4-length win in the open Display Stakes at Woodbine on December 3, while State of Honor was freshened before returning to action at Gulfstream Park on January 7 when second, defeated just a head by Sonic Mule, in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes.
King and His Court will be making his sophomore and dirt debut in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile test at Tampa Bay Downs and has been training forwardly at Casse’s training centre.
“He’s been training really well. Gary Boulanger has worked him a few times and really liked the way he went. It’s one of those things, you just never know (if they’ll like dirt) until you try but he’s given us enough indication that he deserves a chance,” said Casse. “And we know if he handles the dirt that the distance isn’t a problem because he’ll run all day long. I just watched him train here this morning and he was feeling really good, bucking and kicking.”
King and His Court, a bay son of Court Vision, was a private purchase for Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable from former owner-trainer Alexander Patykewich just weeks before the Coronation Futurity win. The talented dark bay won one of seven starts for his former connections, a maiden score at third asking, but did rally to complete the trifecta in both the Colin and Grade 3 Grey Stakes. Gary Boulanger, aboard since the move to the Casse barn, retains the mount.
“He had been running some good Ragozin numbers and we thought if he could continue to improve, with his pedigree, he could be a very nice horse,” said Casse of the private purchase. “Similar to Lexie Lou, we thought we were buying something nice and it turned out to be even better than we thought.”
State of Honor, owned by Conrad Farms, graduated at fifth asking with a prominent effort in a seven furlong maiden allowance tilt at Woodbine on October 19 which set up his good Coronation Futurity effort.

State of Honor…
However, a move from the Woodbine Tapeta to the Gulfstream dirt seemed to suit the bay son of To Honor and Serve as he recorded a career best 83 Beyer Speed Figure in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes.
“He trained extremely well on the dirt for the Mucho Macho Man. We were expecting a big effort and he gave us one. Since that race he’s trained even better,” said Casse. “He’s a big horse, almost 17 hands tall, but I have a little question on how far he wants to go. He may be a better seven-eighths horse, but we want to give him an opportunity and he should improve off that first dirt effort."
Julien Leparoux, who engineered the Mucho Macho Man effort, will return.
While both Casse contenders could find themselves on the Kentucky Derby trail with a good result on Saturday, there is no doubt that the $1-million Queen’s Plate, slated for July 2 at Woodbine, remains the ultimate goal.
“That’s why we’re doing it. We’re excited about the Queen’s Plate but if we’re also sitting on a Derby type horse we want to go ahead and find that out right now. It doesn’t mean that they can’t do both, but you want to give them the opportunity,” said Casse.
A field of nine will line up in the Sam F. Davis including a number of U.S. Triple Crown hopefuls as the 1 1/16-mile main track event is a ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ race, with the top four finishers receiving 10-4-2-1 points toward qualifying for the Run for the Roses starting gate on May 6 at Churchill Downs. It is also the major prep race for the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 11.
The undefeated McCraken is the 2-1 morning line favourite in the Sam F. Davis for owner-breeder Whitham Thoroughbreds and trainer Ian Wilkes. The Ghostzapper colt was perfect in three juvenile starts, all at Churchill Downs, including an impressive victory in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. that earned a field-best 86 Beyer number. Hernandez Jr. returns for McCraken’s seasonal debut.
Another top Kentucky Derby prospect, the Lael Stables-homebred colt No Dozing, won his first two juvenile starts before trying his luck in graded company finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and a game second in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct. Daniel Centeno will ride for trainer Arnaud Delacour.
Seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won six of the last 11 runnings of the Sam F. Davis, including last year with Destin, will saddle the undefeated Fact Finding, who is three-for-three for the ownership group of Michael Tabor, M.V. Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stables. John Velazquez, aboard for all three wins including a victory in the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream, will ride.
Chance of Luck, Six Gun Salute, Wild Shot and Tapwrit complete a competitive field that should provide plenty of pace for King and His Court to chase.
“There’s definitely some speed in there and State of Honor is one of them,” said Casse. “I’m thinking King and His Court will be able to save ground and relax and hopefully come with a big run.”
The Grade 3 Sam F. Davis is slated as Race 10 (4:45PM ET) on Saturday’s 12-race card at Tampa Bay Downs. Racing fans can watch and wager on all the action via
1 / State of Honor / Julien Leparoux / Mark Casse / 8-1
2 / King and His Court / Gary Boulanger / Mark Casse / 8-1
3 / Fact Finding / John Velazquez / Todd Pletcher / 9-2
4 / Chance of Luck / Ronald Dale Allen, Jr / Gerald Bennett / 15-1
5 / Six Gun Salute / Pablo Morales / Eoin Harty / 30-1
6 / Wild Shot / Robby Albarado / George Arnold, II / 5-1
7 / Tapwrit / Jose Ortiz / Todd Pletcher / 8-1
8 / McCraken / Brian Hernandez, Jr. / Ian Wilkes / 2-1
9 / No Dozing / Daniel Centeno / Arnaud Delacour / 4-1
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