People in my circle can attest that I thoroughly enjoy a good glass of red wine now and again. It’s even something of a family hobby (https://muccwines.com/). But beyond my partial obsession with the liquid form, it is the equine version that made the biggest impression on me last weekend.

VINO ROSSO was a fine third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday and there is an abundance of reason for optimism with the son of Curlin. Following a pair of facile victories to open his career, Vino Rosso was put to the test against an accomplished group in his stakes bow and ran a big one in the Davis, proving to me that he belongs in the Kentucky Derby discussion.

Tracking between runners down the backside, chestnut colt got in the clear for the stretch run and never wavered in falling just 1 ¼ lengths shy under John Velazquez. Todd Pletcher pupil earned a lifetime-best 100 BRIS Speed number in his 2018 debut while registering a hefty 106 BRIS Late Pace figure.

I went back and watched the first pair of career outings by Vino Rosso and while I selected him to win the Sam Davis, I may have even taken him lightly. He is a superb prospect who I think will be among the best of his generation by season’s end.

Vino Rosso won on his own accord going seven-eighths at Aqueduct in the fall, being tapped only once or twice in the latter stages of the dash to stay a straight course. Returning at Tampa in a December allowance tilt with Velazquez up as the 1-20 choice, he again did it mostly on his own when gliding to the lead at the top of the lane and powering home a clear winner, getting the reins shaken just for short time inside the final furlong.

In the Davis, Vino Rosso was asked for his run with a strong hand ride approaching the turn for home and was also given a few left-handed cracks of the whip inside the final two furlongs. Though he doesn’t yet appear to have push-button acceleration, Vino Rosso owns a very high cruising speed that tells me classic distances will be of his preference.

I love how Velazquez has handled Vino Rosso to this point. He put him in behind runners for the initial time after having flawless journeys in the first two races. And though the race was in the balance late, the Hall of Fame pilot still showed the Kentucky-bred the stick and rode him through the wire, winning the gallop-out in impressive fashion without being persevered with.

Vino Rosso is bred to run all day. His sire, Curlin, was an exceptional second in the 2007 Belmont S. (G1) and his dam, a daughter of Street Cry, counts 2014 Belmont runner-up Commissioner as a half-brother.

Like most “vino rosso,” the Kentucky Derby hopeful should continue to get better and better.