Rule further enhanced his already lofty status in the 3-year-old division with a professional three-length victory over a game but overmatched Schoolyard Dreams in Saturday's $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The previously undefeated Uptowncharlybrown never threatened the leaders while finishing a well beaten third in the Grade 3 event.
Rule, who closed out his 2-year-old campaign with three consecutive victories, including a win in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot, was pressured throughout the 1 1/16-mile Sam Davis, first by fellow south Florida invader Middle of the Nite and then by Schoolyard Dreams, who sat a perfect trip just behind and outside the embattled early leaders. But Rule was true to both tests, fending off Schoolyard Dreams through the stretch before edging well clear in the final sixteenth of a mile.
Uptowncharlybrown, who was favored over Rule for most of the wagering before going postward the solid second choice at 3-2, broke a step slow, lagged well off the early pace, then rallied mildly after angling very wide into the stretch.
A son of Roman Ruler owned by WinStar Farms and trained by todd Pletcher, Rule completed the distance in 1:44.15 seconds under jockey John Velazquez and paid $4.
"It was a good effort because he headed off a few challenges, finished up gamely, and had his ears pricked at the wire," said Pletcher. "It was just what we were hoping for. We felt like we had him ready without over doing it and he shold move forward off this race."
Pletcher said it is not likely Rule will return to Tampa for the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby on March 13.
"We were talking before the race about taking him to a Grade 1 for his next start," said Pletcher. "We're in good position with him now because we've got a race under his belt, he has the money, and we have time to look around for a spot. There are plenty of options such as the Florida Derby, Blue Grass, or the Wood."
Lomaki runs down pacesetters
Lomaki rallied past the dueling leaders in the final furlong and went on to post a two-length victory in the Grade 3, $125,000 Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf.
Under a well-judged ride by Chris DeCarlo, Lomaki raced along behind a duel between Cure for Sale and Ainamaa for more than six furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile race, then rallied outside that pair down the middle of the course in the stretch and pulled away late to post her fourth win from 12 lifetime starts.
Cure for Sale held on well late to hold second by a length from a late-closing Coulee. Hustle, who had challenged in upper stretch, was a weakening fourth in the field of 11.
Lomaki, trained by Eric Contrieux, returned $7.20 as the tepid choice while covering the distance over a turf course labelled yielding in 1:46.39.
The Endeavour lost some of its luster when Lady Shakespeare and Romacaca, who were the two morning- line favorites, scratched from the race due to the soft condition of the turf course.
Diva Delite wins Suncoast Stakes
In the $75,000 Suncoast Stakes, Diva Delite rallied along the outside through the stretch under Rosemary Homeister Jr. and came away with a well-earned 1 3/4-length victory in the mile-and-40-yard traditional prep for the Grade 3 Florida Oaks.
Diva Delite, trained by David Vivian, was content to race along toward the rear of the well-bunched field through the early stages of the Suncoast as Southern Truth set a solid pace under Daniel Centeno through a half of 47.50 seconds and six furlongs in 1:12.59. Leaving the second turn, Diva Delite advanced along the outside and set sail after the leader turning for home.
Meanwhile, Imaginary Saint and John Velasquez, who had been pinned down along the rail to the top of the lane, swung outside in upper stretch and bumped with Mallory Square and Edgar Prado as Mallory Square was challenging the leader and five horses fanned across the track with a furlong remaining.
But in the late stages Diva Delite asserted herself, edging clear from the pack while Miss Aristocrat rallied up the rail to gain the place by three-quarters of a length over Imaginary Saint with Mallory Square another three- quarters of a length back in fourth.
It the fourth straight victory for Diva Delite, who returned $6.20 as the favorite while covering the distance over a fast track in 1:41.58.
- additional reporting by Doug McCoy