Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Holy Highway starts journey to Kentucky Derby with Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs

OLDSMAR — Trainer Derek Ryan has navigated the Triple Crown trail before. He is trying to do it with Holy Highway this time.

Three years after saddling his only Kentucky Derby starter, Musket Man (third to Mine That Bird), Ryan is eager to see how Holy Highway performs today in the Grade III $250,000 Sam F. Davis, the first major prep for 3-year-olds at Tampa Bay Downs and the centerpiece of Festival Preview Day.

A strong effort could make Holy Highway a prospect for the Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. However, Ryan enters today's 11/16-mile event (Race 11, 5:10 p.m.) with guarded optimism.

"We're trying to figure out what exactly we've got," he said. "He's a nice horse, but we don't know if he's at this kind of level. Even though he's won two on the turf, I think he's going to be a better horse on the dirt. If he doesn't pan out, then we'll put him back on the turf and get him ready for the Florida Cup (April 7)."

The 32nd annual Sam F. Davis appears to be wide open. Trainer Todd Pletcher goes for his fifth victory in the event with Ecabroni, whose only win is a maiden score at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.

Trainer Graham Motion, who recently announced his 2011 Kentucky Derby-winning Animal Kingdom is likely to make his season debut in the Grade III $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb. 25, entered State of Play. The colt has two turf victories, including a Grade II triumph in the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.).

Gulfstream Park Derby winner Reveron is the 3-1 morning-line favorite among the field of 11.

Holy Highway, a Florida homebred colt owned by Liam Benson of Ocala, is by 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull and out of the Awesome Again mare Freeway Fun. Ryan was at Monmouth Park when Holy Bull broke his maiden and won the Haskell Invitational at Oceanport, N.J.

"(Holy Highway) is a very similar type of horse, not ability-wise, but to look at him," Ryan said. "He's slender, very athletic and done everything the right way in every start. The good thing about (Holy Bull's) offspring is they are good on turf and dirt."

Holy Highway's two Oldsmar starts have been on turf against maiden and allowance optional claiming company. His lone dirt race came at Calder in Miami Gardens, where he finished third. Angel Serpa has the riding assignment.

Ryan is using the same blueprint with Holy Highway as he did with Schoolyard Dreams (2010) and Musket Man (2009), who finished second and third, respectively, in the Sam F. Davis. Each horse had three starts entering the race. "On paper, (Holy Highway) is going to look like he's in over his head (20-1 on the morning line)," Ryan said. "But we're going to try this."

The Grade III $150,000 Endeavour (Race 10, 4:40) and the $150,000 Florida Oaks (Race 6, 2:40) also are on the 12-race card.

Holy Highway starts journey to Kentucky Derby with Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs 02/03/12 [Last modified: Friday, February 3, 2012 8:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The Florida Gators' case for QB Luke Del Rio


    GAINESVILLE — It took three years and two transfers for Florida's Luke Del Rio to become a starting quarterback.

    Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio (14) warms up next to quarterback Austin Appleby (12) before the game against the North Texas Mean Green on Saturday September 17, 2016 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Final score was Florida 32 North Texas 0. (Monica Herndon, Times)
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Jays game

    The Heater

    RHP Tommy Hunter has been so good emerging as the top set-up man for closer Alex Colome with a dazzling run, but twice in five days he has given up a game-losing homer, Sunday to Cleveland's Austin Jackson and Thursday to Toronto's Justin Smoak.

  3. Rays morning after: There (really) are still reasons to be optimistic


    There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the Rays' chances to get out of their extended skid and make the playoffs, including veteran 3B Evan Longoria's acknowledgement after Thursday's game that the pressures of …

    Trevor Plouffe reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning against Toronto.
  4. Is Bucs kicker Nick Folk a significant upgrade over Roberto Aguayo?


    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter made it clear.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk is entering his 11th NFL season. He spent three seasons with the Cowboys and seven with the Jets. [LOREN ELLIOTT  |  Times]
  5. Tim Tebow Week: 12 stories from his Tampa Bay tour


    Alas, Tim Tebow Week — eight baseball games in eight nights that reunited Tebow with his Tampa Bay friends and admirers — is over. The fun ended Thursday night.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow meets fans and signs autographs before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times