More Than Enough Sand in the Hourglass as No More Time Wins Sam F. Davis

February 11, 2024

No More Time victorious in the Sam F. Davis (Ben Baugh)

Sibelius Repeats in the Pelican and Chi Town Lady up Late in the Minaret

By Ben Baugh

OLDSMAR, Fla.— A playful personality and puerile attitude, were replaced by professionalism Saturday afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs as Morplay Racing, LLC’s No More Time cruised to a 1 ¼-length victory in the 44th edition of the Sam F. Davis Stakes (Gr. 3). 

The mile-and-a-sixteenth contest was the first graded stakes victory for conditioner Jose Francisco D’Angelo, and the dark bay son of Not this Time was guided to victory by jockey Paco Lopez. 

“The idea was for him just to break, and wherever he settled, he settled,” said Rich Mendez, Morplay Racing, LLC. “We knew he had the speed to make the turn and finish strong. He was ahead the whole time. He went to the lead, and I was super nervous. Paco was apologizing after the race, but he was just playing with him.”

The colt was purchased at the 2022 Keeneland Yearling Sale by Hartley/DeRenzo for $40,000, and No More Time’s evolution has been a testimony to a program that has a history of success in developing Grade One winners and Classic performers. Patience led to his progression that had its challenges during the colt’s nascent stages. 

“We bought this colt as a yearling, all along our plan was to race this colt,” said Randy Hartley. “He was a little immature when we bought him, but everybody loved him. He wasn’t the most expensive horse we bought. We just kind of bought him for a fun horse. When we got him home, he was scared to death of everything. It took a long time to get him broke. He was spooky. Honestly, I think that could’ve been the best thing, the more time I could give him to mature.”

No More Time’s fortitude has never been in question and his strength of heart played a huge role Saturday. The lightly raced colt was making his fourth career start and first since the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, a race where he had to overcome adversity, finishing fifth after a less than seamless start. 

“He’s just a grinder. I knew he was tough, but he’s tougher than I thought he was,” said Hartley. “We’re just so proud of him. We’re only racing four 3-year-olds, so it’s not like we have a big racing stable.”

The win in the Sam F. Davis was satiating for the connections because of the team effort and their involvement with the colt who has more than overcome his initial skittishness. 

“It’s been an amazing ride,” said Mendez. “ It’s our first year of officially racing, so to be able to have 20 points toward the (Kentucky) Derby, whether we make it or not, this experience will be something that will be in my memories forever, and to be able to do it with my family and my partners is amazing.”

However, it was the patience and assiduity that helped lead to Saturday’s performance and D’angelo’s acuity was a critical component in the victory. 

“We were going to run him in the Holy Bull last weekend, but Jose felt since this was only his fourth race, he just felt like he might need one more work, that this would give him one more week,” said Hartley. “Paco rode a good race for us today. When I saw the fractions and saw that he could hold on because he’s pretty fast. We’re just excited. We love Jose, he’s such a nice guy.  We met Jose, and we just took a liking to him. He’s like a son now. “

Sibelius (#7) runs down Mish in the Pelican (Ben Baugh)

It was twice as nice for the connections of Sibelius as the chestnut gelding collared Mish in deep stretch, outdueling his opponent for the win by a desperate neck, in the 6-furlong Pelican Stakes, a race he’s won now in consecutive years. 

The victory made it an extremely good day for the Taylor Made Stallion Not This Time and owners Jun H. Park and Delia Nash. The 6-year-old was coming off a victory in his previous start, the Mr. Prospector Stakes (Gr. 3) at Gulfstream Park earlier this winter, a race he also won in 2022, and Sibelius used last year’s Pelican win as a springboard to take the prestigious Dubai Golden Shaheen (Gr. 1) at Meydan Racecourse. Sibelius is conditioned by Jeremiah O’Dwyer and was ridden to victory by Junior Alvarado. 

And like a multi-movement composition from the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, his equine namesake’s narrow victory was stirring and melodramatic for an appreciative audience and the winning connections. 

“I left it up to Junior, I trust Junior, Junior trusts the horse, they have a good partnership together, I was confident that I had the horse as good as I could have him here today,” said O’Dwyer. “Win, lose or draw we were happy coming in here with our horse. We were hoping he was the best horse, and thankfully he proved it. He ran down the leaders. He was gritty all the way to the wire.”

The depth of the bond between Sibelius and Alvarado was apparent and loomed large in the Pelican’s final outcome. Sibelius broke from the seventh post position, but after chasing the early leaders seemed to find his stride and determination. 

“I had an okay trip, it wasn’t the best, I didn’t have the best post position, I rode him like he was the best horse,” said Alvarado. “I had to trust him a little bit. I didn’t want to rush him too much out of the gate because since I knew there was a lot of speed on the inside. I knew I was going to be able to get the lead with those horses on the inside. I was just going to bide my time, and when I turned for home, I thought I had a good horse as a target in front of me. I always knew he would go after him, that’s what I did, right when he switched leads, I asked him to go, it’s a trust issue, I know what he’s capable of.” 

The depth of the field in the Pelican featured graded stakes winners, stakes victors, and graded stakes placed horses, making things less than easy. 

“Of course, (I was worried about Nakatomi and Mish), you can’t write off all those good horses,” said O’Dwyer. “Nakatomi was coming back after finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last year. Wesley (Ward) is very good in getting these horses back fresh and well…Mish won a nice allowance race this winter over the track. I have a lot of respect for all the horses in there…I knew there was going to be speed.”

Chi Town Lady (#2) blows by her rivals in the Minaret (Ben Baugh)

Chi Town Lady blew by Unifying in the final strides to win the six-furlong Minaret Stakes. The 5-year-old chestnut daughter of Verrazano is campaigned by Castleton Lyons, trained by Wesley Ward, and was ridden to victory by Tyler Gaffalione. 

It was a triumphant return for Chi Town Lady, whose neck victory on Saturday was her first start in almost eight months. The mare who won the 2022 Test Stakes (Gr. 1) will be pointed toward another prestigious contest this spring. 

“Tyler rode a great race, he knows the filly, he’s been breezing her the last couple of times at Payson Park,” said Louis Dubois, on behalf of Wesley Ward. “Everything had been good along the journey prior to the race in her preparation. He (Gaffalione) has a good connection with the horse. She had won a grade one and she had such a turn of foot at the end. She came back on the outside of everyone and she’s such a good filly. The next step according to Wesley Ward is that she’ll go to the seven-furlong Madison at Keeneland.”

Chi Town Lady was as strong as a gust of wind off of Lake Michigan as she overcame a troubled start, before finding her stride. 

“Everything went to plans,” said Gaffalione. “She didn’t break the sharpest. She has a tremendous kick, so we kind of relied on that. She settled great for me and when I called on her she finished up really well. Unifying definitely gave me a good challenge I was fairly confident coming into the stretch, I didn’t ask my filly for her best, once I put her in the clear she surged on her own. I had quite a bit of confidence coming to the wire.”

Contributing Authors

Ben Baugh

Ben Baugh has been writing about Thoroughbred racing for more than 25 years. A past winner of the Raleigh Burroughs Award, his work has appeared...

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