Kentucky Derby Sophmore Spotlight: Sam F. Davis Stakes

February 14th, 2018

Flameaway wins the Sam F. Davis S.

Kentucky Derby Sophmore Spotlight: Sam F. Davis Stakes 2018

A strong field of six went to post in the $200,000 Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. And I came away impressed with each of the top three.

The Mark Casse-trained FLAMEAWAY took the lead soon after the break and was never headed in securing a game, half-length score under strong handling by Jose Lezcano. Ontario-bred chestnut was relaxed early while posting splits of :24 and :47 3/5 for the opening half mile, and responded readily when given his cue to quicken in for the stretch run.

With an imposing threat from a determined CATHOLIC BOY on his flank throughout the stretch, Flameaway never wavered in stopping the teletimer in an excellent, 1:42 2/5, just shy of the stakes mark established last year.

With five wins from seven career races, Flameaway has a fine foundation, good early presence and he will not back down from a challenge. Flameaway progresses to the next step on the Kentucky Derby Trail and can’t be overlooked.

Catholic Boy was making his first start of 2018 following a romp in the Remsen S. (G2) in his juvenile finale, which was also his dirt debut. Jonathan Thomas trainee showed very good tactical foot while always in striking distance, ranged up to confront the leader at the head of the stretch and fell just shy under the wire.

The high-class three-year-old has never run a bad one and since I argue that this was the best Kentucky Derby prep of the season to date, Catholic Boy remains high on my Derby list. Consider the effort to be a very good steppingstone for a horse who has improved his BRIS Speed figure with every lifetime performance. 

VINO ROSSO got his first real challenge in the Davis after two easy wins and looks like a very good prospect to me (as I stated in a previous posting). Todd Pletcher trainee was more than eight lengths clear of third and gave me the impression of a runner who will benefit greatly from this experience against more seasoned sophomores.

HOLLYWOOD STAR was the biggest disappointment in the field in finishing a distant fourth. Son of Malibu Moon made a threatening move approaching the final turn, but then flattened out quickly under Joel Rosario. I am not sure where Hollywood Star goes from here.

While it’s surely not time to ‘pull the plug’ on the multiple graded stakes performer, he has been well back in his last pair and Hollywood Star needs to show marked improvement in his next race or two to be considered Kentucky Derby material.

Overall I think the connections of the top trio should feel really good about what they witnessed on Saturday. Each moves on to the next Kentucky Derby prep coming off a fine performance.