Tampa Bay Downs: Sam F. Davis Has Served As Major Launch Pad To Grade 1 Glory

Since the Sam F. Davis became a Grade 3 stakes in 2009, it has had a significant impact on the Triple Crown scene on numerous occasions. Whether that will be the case this year is difficult to predict, but there is no doubt the eyes of the Thoroughbred racing world will be on Tampa Bay Downs next Saturday for the 41st running of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race for 3-year-olds.

The $250,000 Sam F. Davis, contested at a distance of 1 1/16 miles on the main track, is one of three G3 stakes on the Feb. 6 card, along with the $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for older males on the turf and the $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour for older fillies and mares on the turf. The fourth stakes on the card is the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes on the dirt for 3-year-old fillies, a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points race.

While the 2009 Sam F. Davis winner, General Quarters, later won G1 stakes on dirt and turf (Keeneland actually employed an all-weather synthetic surface when General Quarters won the 2009 Toyota Blue Grass), the third-place Sam F. Davis finisher, Musket Man, was equally as successful later – perhaps more so. The Derek Ryan-trainee returned to win the G3 Tampa Bay Derby and the G2 Illinois Derby and finished third in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. As a 4-year-old, Musket Man was second in two G1 stakes: the Carter Handicap and the Metropolitan Handicap.

Rule won the Sam F. Davis the following year, and although he never reached the top rung of his class, he did amass more than $1-million in earnings. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, won his first Kentucky Derby that spring with Super Saver, who did not run in the Sam F. Davis but finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby.

The Sam F. Davis really started heating up as a Triple Crown prep race in 2016. Destin, under John Velazquez, rewarded Pletcher with his sixth Davis victory, then set a track record in winning the G2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby four weeks later. He finished second by a nose to Creator in one of the most exciting Belmont Stakes in recent history.

Pletcher would not be denied a Belmont victory the following year. After running second to McCracken in the Sam F. Davis, Tapwrit established his bona fides with a stakes-record performance in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. The Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets was the crowning jewel in Tapwrit’s career (he failed to win in five subsequent starts).

If you weren’t here for the 2019 Sam F. Davis Stakes, well, you don’t know what you missed. Trainer Mark Casse’s Flameaway won in stakes-record time of 1:42.44 and returned to finish second in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby; he won the Challenger Stakes here as a 4-year-old. But it was the Sam F. Davis second and third-place finishers, Catholic Boy and Vino Rosso, who went on to make their connections rich(er).

Under the tutelage of trainer Jonathan Thomas, Catholic Boy won the G1 Belmont Derby Invitational on turf, then switched back to dirt to capture the G1 Runhappy Travers at Saratoga. He earned more than $2.1-million in his career. Vino Rosso, under the masterful Pletcher, won more than $4.8-million, thanks mainly to victories as a 4-year-old in the G1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes and the Longines’ Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Information about this year’s Sam F. Davis, and the other Festival Preview Day 41 Presented by Lambholm South stakes races, will be forthcoming over the next several days, so stay tuned.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Tampa Bay Downs is limiting general-admission attendance for the Feb. 6 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.

The post Tampa Bay Downs: Sam F. Davis Has Served As Major Launch Pad To Grade 1 Glory appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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