OLDSMAR — As Brethren cruised through the stretch Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez took two peeks behind him, first under his right arm, then his left.
With no one close, it was time to look ahead.
Brethren, the half-brother of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, took a major step on the 3-year-old trail with a dominant victory in the Grade III $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes.
Making his stakes debut in front of a crowd of 5,219, the undefeated WinStar Farm colt easily handled a field of 10. He won by four lengths, a margin that could have been larger had Dominguez not eased up on him in the final furlong.
"The horse was really on cruise control from the get-go," said Dominguez, winner of the Festival Preview Day's three stakes races. "He was going along with no effort, just what you want to see in a good horse."
Elliott Walden, WinStar's president, CEO and racing manager, had to relish the track bias, which was favoring horses with outside posts. But Brethren, the 4-5 favorite in post 10, was hesitant to load and broke a step slow in the Kentucky Derby prep race.
"I felt sick the first jump," Walden said. "By the time they went under the wire (the first time), he'd got himself in a good position going into the first turn."
Brethren tracked pace-setter Ribo Bobo (who finished seventh) through fractions of 23.75 and 48.20 seconds. The Distorted Humor colt took the lead after 6 furlongs and coasted, clocking 11/16 miles in 1:45.07. Too Experience was second and Watch Me Go third.
It was the fourth Sam F. Davis win in the past six years for WinStar and trainer Todd Pletcher, who didn't travel to Oldsmar.
Walden was noncommittal on the next start for Brethren, who picked up graded earnings of $120,000 with his third victory. Returning for the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 appears unlikely, with Uncle Mo, also a Pletcher trainee and an early favorite for the May 7 Kentucky Derby, expected to run.
"Any time you run a horse two turns for the first time and been on a 77-day layoff, you don't know how they're going to respond," Walden said. "I was very pleased with how he did it and the ease that he did it with.
"This time of year, some 3-year-olds jump out and they're the next Uncle Mo and Super Saver. You don't know until they make that quantum leap."
NOTES: Silver Reunion ($6) won the $125,000 Grade III Endeavour, and Dynamic Holiday ($8) took the $125,000 Florida Oaks. … Jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr., the nation's second all-time leading female rider, dropped her seven mounts Saturday. She is pregnant and is taking time off, her agent, Steve Elzey, told the Daily Racing Form.