Candy Man Rocket, with Junior Alvarado aboard, delivers the goods in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (courtesy SV Photography)
Candy Man Rocket emerges as a 3-year-old colt to take VERY seriously
For a few fleeting seconds nearing the turn for home in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, it appeared pace-setter Boca Boy was about to pull away from his closest pursuer, Candy Man Rocket.
But Junior Alvarado, the jockey on Candy Man Rocket, wanted to wait a little longer to launch his move.
“I didn’t really want to engage the horse up front (Boca Boy) or make any quick move too early. I just had to move a little bit, keep holding my position and wait as long as I could,” Alvarado said. “He doesn’t have a real quick turn of foot, but he started grinding it out so I started picking it up and I was really pleased by the quarter pole turning for home.”
Then, when he requested more, Candy Man Rocket delivered.
“At the sixteenth pole when I switched my stick to the right hand and showed it to him to see what I had left, he put his head low and kept grinding his way there,” Alvarado said after posting a 1-length victory from stablemate Nova Rags, ridden by Samy Camacho.
The Sam F. Davis was the centerpiece of a Festival Preview Day 41 Presented by Lambholm South card that set a Sam F. Davis Day handle record of $13,200,523, an increase of more than $2.1-million from last year. The total handle is the third-largest in track history. Three other stakes were contested, including two graded races on the turf, with total stakes purse money of $750,000.
Riley Mott, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and his father’s assistant, had a good feeling Candy Man Rocket was going to earn the $120,000 Sam F. Davis winner’s share when Alvarado turned him loose.
“He got into a real nice comfort zone down the backside and Junior let him out a notch going to the 3/8-mile pole and at that point there wasn’t a whole lot coming from behind,” the younger Mott said. “He hit the front a little bit early, which was concerning – he’s still inexperienced and sometimes when they get to the front too early, they tend to wander – but Junior kept him to the task and he really ran on well and passed the two-turn test.”
Mott also saddled Nova Rags, who won the Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 16.
“He is a quality horse, and he sat a good trip too,” Mott said. “We weren’t sure about the two turns, so to see him come back and pass the two-turn test and run so well to a good horse and his stablemate was pretty encouraging.”
Candy Man Rocket paid $8.20 to win as the second betting choice in the 12-horse field. His time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth on a fast dirt track was 1:44.30. He won by a length, with Nova Rags and Camacho holding on for second by a neck from Hidden Stash. Boca Boy finished fourth.
The top two were both racing around two turns for the first time.
Candy Man Rocket, a son of Candy Ride-Kenny Lane, by Forestry, is owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations. He is 2-for-3 in his career. The Sam F. Davis is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, with Candy Man Rocket taking away the top award of 10 points.
The 1-2 finish by the Mott charges puts the Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby squarely in their sights, although Riley Mott said the March 6 race might come up a little quick for Nova Rags. Regardless, having options is what it’s all about for 3-year-olds at this stage of the year.