Missed Start In Kentucky ‘Blessing In Disguise’ For Sam F. Davis Contender Boca Boy

Gulfstream Park-based trainer Cheryl Winebaugh and her assistant, husband Ken Winebaugh, hope their decision to bring their 3-year-old gelding Boca Boy to Tampa Bay Downs earlier this week translates to their advantage in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis, one of four stakes – three graded – on Festival Preview Day 41 Presented by Lambholm South at the Oldsmar, Fla., track.

“We wanted to get him a little experience over the ground and get him used to the sights,” said Ken Winebaugh. “We didn’t want to throw everything at him at once.”

Friday’s workout on the Oldsmar main track with jockey Antonio Gallardo in the saddle went as well as the couple could have hoped for, as Boca Boy breezed five furlongs in 1:01 4/5, the fastest of 11 works at the distance. “We had heard the (dirt) track here was a little deeper and cuppier (than Gulfstream), and Antonio said he handled it real well,” Ken said. “He came out of it great, and I think he’s ready for a really good race.”

Undoubtedly, he will need it. Boca Boy is expected to face eight or nine rivals in the Sam F. Davis, which awards Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four finishers and is likely to draw horses from the barns of such training behemoths as Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, Christophe Clement and Dale Romans.

The Sam F. Davis is one of four stakes, three graded, on Saturday’s card, which offers stakes purse money of $750,000. Entries for the entire card will be taken Wednesday.

Also scheduled Saturday are the G3, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes, for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward racing a 1 1/16 miles on the turf; the G3, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, for horses 4-and-up at 1 1/16 miles on the turf; and the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes, for 3-year-old fillies racing a mile-and-40-yards on the main dirt track.

The Suncoast Stakes awards Longines Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the first four finishers on the same 10-4-2-1 basis as the Davis.

Boca Boy’s previous start on Sept. 26 resulted in a virtual gate-to-wire victory on a sloppy Gulfstream surface in the $400,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Florida Sire In Reality Stakes. The two-length victory was achieved in a time of 1:46.34 for 1 1/16 miles, the same distance as the Sam F. Davis.

The Winebaughs and Boca Boy’s owner, Kenneth Fishbein, hoped to start him in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs. But when he popped a splint bone (an injury similar to shin splints in runners) during an Oct. 24 workout, the connections put on the brakes.

Ken Winebaugh thinks the setback might have been a blessing in disguise. “He has really grown up since then. He’s filled out and gotten taller, so instead of being a baby, he looks more like a racehorse,” he said. “He has matured a lot, and he has already shown he can handle racing around two turns. He has a lot of heart, and I have high hopes for him.”

Gallardo is expected to ride Boca Boy on Saturday.

Smiley Sobotka, who finished second in the race Boca Boy missed, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, is expected to compete for owner Albaugh Family Stables and Romans.

Other probables for the Sam F. Davis include Candy Man Rocket, owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations and trained by Mott; Broadway, owned by Robert S. Evans and trained by Clement; Known Agenda, owned by St. Elias Stables and trained by Pletcher; and Lucky Law, owned by Sanford Bacon, Mrs. Paul Shanahan, Horse France America and Patrick L. Biancone Racing and trained by Biancone, who won last year’s Sam F. Davis with Sole Volante.

Also, Hidden Stash, owned by BBN Racing and trained by Victoria Oliver; Ricochet, owned by Whiskey Hollow Thoroughbreds and trained by Kelsey Danner; and Runway Magic, owned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and Bruce Lunsford and trained by George “Rusty” Arnold, II.

On that list of probables, Boca Boy is the lone stakes winner, and also the only Florida-bred. He is a son of Prospective – who finished second in the 2012 Sam F. Davis and won the G2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby – out of the Gimmeawink mare Baliwink.

“I think this race will be a step up (in competition), but all he has to do is finish well and show he is not outclassed and he will go on from here,” Winebaugh said.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Tampa Bay Downs is limiting general-admission attendance for the Festival Preview Day 41 Presented by Lambholm South card to 2,500 spectators. Tickets, which are $10 each plus a service fee, are being sold online through Eventbrite.com and at the program stands.

Horsemen, box-seat holders and season-ticket holders do not need to purchase tickets, but must present their passes at the gate to gain admittance.

Seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis unless patrons have prior arrangements in the Skye Terrace Dining Room, Sports Gallery, Clubhouse Carrels or Legends Bar, but the purchase of a general-admission ticket is still required to gain admittance.

The track is also selling a limited number of tables in the Backyard Picnic Area for $50 each plus a service fee; that price includes admission for six people.

Here is the link for Festival Preview Day 41 tickets and picnic-area seating:


Everyone will be required to wear masks or face coverings and maintain appropriate social distancing.

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