Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Andie Biancone and Limelight Stables' Sole Volante ended the undefeated streak of 3-5 favorite Independence Hall in Saturday's Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, racing away by two lengths on the wire. The 3-year-old son of Karakontie ran 1 1/16 miles over Tampa Bay Downs' fast main track in 1:42.60, adding the Davis to a resume that already included a win in the listed Pulpit Stakes over turf as a juvenile. Sent off at odds of 5-1, the gelding was ridden to victory by Luca Panici on behalf of trainer Patrick Biancone.
“We knew from the beginning he's a good horse,” said Panici. “He's very intelligent and when you ask him something he's a quick learner. I asked him about the 3/8 pole and I never had a doubt (he would catch Independence Hall).”
Sole Volante's victory earned him his first 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, placing him 12th on the current leaderboard. Independence Hall's second-place finish in the Davis earned him 4 additional points, and his new total of 14 has the colt in fourth.
“Jose (Ortiz) said his tongue tie came loose in the post parade, but I'm not saying that as an excuse,” trainer Michael Trombetta said of the previously undefeated Independence Hall. It's an inconvenience and I'm going to have to watch the replay and take it all in. He broke sharp and he was good, he was a little excitable (in the paddock) but he wasn't terrible, so we'll see.”
Panici didn't panic when the Davis field separated by as much as 12 lengths in the early stages, leaving Sole Volante in the back part of the pack while 3-5 favorite Independence Hall was a part of the pace scenario. Sole Volante was traveling alongside No Getting Over Me, who'd missed the break, in about fifth position and at least 14 lengths off the leaders.
Up front, Independence Hall broke well and went for the lead only to be out-sprinted into the first turn by the duo of Chapalu and Premier Star. That pair traded turns on the lead through fractions of :23.34 and :46.52, with jockey Jose Ortiz taking a tight hold of Independence Hall while three-wide in third. Next came the big gap back to Sole Volante and No Getting Over Me, while Tiz Rye Time and Ajaaweed brought up the rear.
The field began to close the gap on the leaders heading into the far turn, and Ortiz gave Independence Hall his cue at the three-eighths pole. The colt bounded away from his rivals with ease, but Sole Volante still had running left to do on his outside.
Panici had advanced to even terms with the favorite by the three-sixteenths pole, and within a few strides had gone on by. Sole Volante hit the wire at least two lengths clear of Independence Hall, while Ajaaweed made a big move from the rear of the field to finish third. Tiz Rye Time checked in fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings, Sole Volante is out of the winning Kingmambo mare Light Blow. He commanded $6,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale, and brought $20,000 as a 2-year-old at OBS April. A debut winner over the turf, Sole Volante won the Pulpit over a mile on the turf last November, and tried dirt in his 3-year-old debut to finish third in the listed Mucho Macho Man Stakes. The Davis is his first graded win and first dirt victory, improving his record to three wins from four starts for earnings of over $225,000.
“We love him a lot,” Biancone said after the race. “He's fantastic on the turf and in America, the life is the dirt, so I ran him in a sprint race at Gulfstream just to see if he could handle it and let him take some kickback. He did everything perfectly but ran a little bit early that day and struggled a little the last 1/16. Today I said to Luca, let him relax and run the last 3/8 and that's what he did. He's a very interesting young horse. We'll see how he comes back first, the plan first was to go to Fair Grounds because this horse has a lot of stamina, but nothing is cast in stone. So we'll see how he comes back and how he progresses. What he did today is really good. I bought the horse for my daughter when she turned 22 and said if I can get her for $22,000, I'll buy her, and we got her for $20,000. We have plenty of races to choose from, maybe we'll come back here in a month (for the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby).”
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