Oldsmar, FL (Sports Network) - Lightly raced Battle Hardened came from off the pace to capture Saturday's $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The 1 1/16-mile race is the final local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby on March 10.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Battle Hardened was bet down from 12-1 in the morning-line to 9-2 when the starting gate sprung open. Trainer Todd Pletcher's Ecabroni was the 7-2 favorite in the 11-horse field.
State of Play, making his first start on dirt, set the pace with Fox Rules in second and Gulfstream Park Derby champ Reveron running in third. Battle Hardened was fourth as the field went up the backstretch.
On the turn for home Reveron took the lead as Battle Hardened gained ground from the outside. Leparoux had his mount draw even with the leader and pulled ahead inside the furlong pole.
Trained by Eddie Kenneally, Battle Hardened hit the wire 1 1/4-lengths in front of runner-up and co-favorite Prospective. Reveron had to settle for third followed by Ravelo's Boy, Neck 'n Neck, Fox Rules, State of Play, Burning Time, Moroccan Brew, Holy Highway and Ecabroni.
The time for the Sam F. Davis Stakes was 1:44.58 on a fast track.
"He was very professional today," said Leparoux, who was riding Battle Hardened for the first time. "He broke good and put me in the right spot right away. In a big field, I knew we'd be in traffic. When he settled near the inside, he relaxed the way I wanted him to.
"I was inside, inside and then on the second turn, I was able to get out and this horse has a long stride and he kept going. Eddie told me to warm him up good and it went well. I knew he was a maiden, of course, but Eddie told me his last race at Gulfstream was kind of like a win because he had a bad post and some bad luck. He ran big today."
Battle Hardened used the Davis as his maiden win after three previous starts. Owned by Michael B. Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier, the chestnut colt picked up $120,000 with his first career victory.
"This was a really good bunch of quality horses, but no stars, and that was one reason we decided to take a shot today," said Kenneally. "He's been training brilliantly and we were happy with how he was coming into the race, so we decided to come here and get some of the big money.
"We'll definitely take a real good look at the Tampa Bay Derby and it's very likely. We knew when his races started to go longer he was going to be a better horse. Two-turn races are what he wants to do and he is very good at it."
Battle Hardened paid $11.00, $5.60 and $4.40. Prospective returned $5.20 and $3.60, and Reveron paid $3.60 to show.