No More Time goes gate-to-wire to grab Derby points in Sam F. Davis

Trainer Jose D’Angelo scratched No More Time out of last weekend’s Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park because he felt the horse needed a little more time to be at his best.

D’Angelo’s belief proved prophetic as No More Time put himself on the Kentucky Derby trail Saturday with a front-running, 1 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Agate Road, off last after hitting the side of the gate, rallied from 11th to finish second, 5 1/4 lengths in front of West Saratoga.

Elysian Meadows finished fourth and was followed in the order of finish by Fulmineo, Crazy Mazon, Tireless, El Principito, Patriot Spirit, Copper Tax, and Change of Command. Everdoit hit the gate at the start, lost jockey Huber Villa-Gomez and crashed through a temporary rail on the backstretch. The Equibase chart reported the horse was caught by an outrider and walked off.

The victory earned No More Time 20 qualifying points on the road to the Kentucky Derby.

No More Time, a son of Not This Time, won a one-mile maiden race at Gulfstream Park in October, his second career start. He had gotten sick and missed a little time before the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on New Year’s Day, also at Gulfstream. In that race, he was in contention at the head of the lane before flattening out to fifth.

After entering No More Time in the Holy Bull – where he would have had to face 2-year-old champion Fierceness – D’Angelo announced three days before the race he was going to scratch and re-route him to the Sam Davis. No More Time worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 at Palm Meadows on Feb. 3.

Breaking from post 5 Saturday under Paco Lopez, No More Time opened up a one-length advantage through a quarter in 23.52 seconds. No More Time remained in front through a half-mile in 46.61 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.81 with Change of Command and West Saratoga in pursuit.

While Change of Command began to drop back, West Saratoga, under Jesus Castanon, made a run at No More Time around the far turn. No More Time responded to the challenge, opened two lengths at the eighth pole and held Agate Road at bay to the wire while drifting out some late.

“The trainer told me to put on the brakes out of the gate and sit third or fourth but my horse broke unbelievable and I let him go,” Lopez, who won last weekend’s Holy Bull aboard Hades in similar fashion, told the Tampa publicity department. “The pace was a little faster than I wanted, but his first and second quarters were very natural. I had plenty of horse the whole way and when he I asked him he gave me everything.”

No More Time, owned by Morplay Racing, headed by Rich Mendez, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.26 and returned $8.60 as the favorite.  

Agate Road, who had made his four previous starts on turf, returned to the dirt for the first time since his debut at Saratoga last summer. He did not break clean, was last down the backside but came with a steady run under Jose Ortiz for the runner-up spot.

“Agate Road finished up with good energy, I’m happy with his effort,” trainer Todd Pletcher told Tampa publicity. “We’ll consider bringing Agate Road back here for the Tampa Bay Derby.”

The Tampa Bay Derby, which will also be among the options for No More Time, will be run March 9.