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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Fat Or Fit? Opinions May Vary

2/2/2012

Assistant trainer Heather Craig says she'll be sending out a fit horse in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes, so she doesn’t care if anyone thinks he looks fat.

State of Play, owned by Team Valor International and trained by Graham Motion, is in some minds the headliner of an 11-horse field for Davis.

Before both of State of Play’s victories at Saratoga – a 5 1/2-furlong maiden event and the Grade II With Anticipation Stakes, both on turf – Craig, Motion’s assistant, heard fans and commentators say the horse looked fat or out of shape. “It kind of got to be a running joke,” Craig said.

Both times, State of Play showed a sufficient level of fitness to win. Although he failed to perform his best in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs -- it was his first race after a brief illness -- Craig says he's gotten fitter since training over the deep, sandy Tampa Bay Downs surface the past month.

“He’s a pretty stocky, big-boned horse who might look to be on the heavy side, but he is all muscle,” Craig said Thursday morning. “I think he looks a lot fitter than he did as a 2-year. Tampa Bay Downs is not an easy track to handle, but he has been training great and has handled the dirt better than we could have imagined.”

Craig was aboard State of Play for his first three breezes at Tampa Bay Downs in January before Luis Garcia breezed him Saturday in :48.60. Alan Garcia (no relation) will come to town to ride State of Play in the Davis.

Although it's his first start on a dirt surface, Craig believes State of Play can handle the switch based on his workouts. Of course, Motion-trained runners are no strangers to successful surface changes: Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby in his first start on dirt.

State of Play’s prime challengers in the Davis should include a trio of stakes winners: Prospective, Reveron and Burning Time.

Prospective, trained by Mark Casse, won the $100,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs three weeks ago. He will be ridden by Luis Contreras.

Reveron, who won the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1, is trained by Agustin Bezara. Fernando Jara has the return riding assignment.

Burning Time, who won the Foolish Pleasure Stakes as a 2-year-old in September at Calder, is trained by David Fawkes and will be ridden by leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Leandro Goncalves.

It’s impossible to discount the lightly raced Ecabroni from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher. Ecabroni, who will be ridden by Javier Castellano, seeks to become Pletcher’s third Davis winner in a row and his fifth in the past seven years.

Motion, who won two of three stakes on the 2011 Festival Preview Day card – with Silver Reunion in the Endeavour and Dynamic Holiday in the Florida Oaks – seeks to repeat the feat Saturday with State of Play and Endeavour entrant Master Shade, a Team Valor 4-year-old filly who won the Middle Stage Stakes at Aqueduct in November.

--Edited Tampa Bay Downs release

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