Sam F. Davis S. (G3) — Race 10 (4:54 p.m. ET)
If last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) is turning into the key race some observers suspect, then Classic Causeway arguably looms as the horse to beat in Saturday’s $250,000 Sam F. Davis S. (G3) for three-year-olds at Tampa Bay Downs.
Following a blowout debut win at Saratoga last September, Classic Causeway went on to finish third in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and second in the Kentucky Jockey Club. The latter was won by Smile Happy, one of the current favorites for the Kentucky Derby (G1), and Classic Causeway finished immediately ahead of White Abarrio, easy winner of last week’s Holy Bull (G3).
“His workouts have been solid, and everything about them suggests he should run well,” trainer Brian Lynch said.
“I feel that if he runs his race, he will certainly fit with these horse. He has a high cruising speed and he has gotten much bigger and stronger as a three-year-old. He has the tactical speed to not be very far from the engine room, and hopefully he will be first to the wire.”
Also exiting the Kentucky Jockey Club is Howling Time, who finished fifth after setting the pace. Howling Time had won his previous two starts, including the Street Sense S.
“No one else wanted the lead, and I don’t think that’s where this horse wants to run,” trainer Dale Romans said.
Make It Big enters the Sam F. Davis undefeated from three starts, including a half-length score in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park in mid-December. However, the form of that race has not worked out with the second- and third-place finishers both running unplaced in subsequent stakes engagements.
Trainer Mark Casse will saddle three in the Sam F. Davis. God of Love, who captured the Grey (G3) at Woodbine in his juvenile finale in late November, will be trying dirt for the first time Saturday. Golden Glider, who also started his career at Woodbine, registered an allowance win over the Tampa strip last month, while Volcanic earned a belated maiden win at Gulfstream last out.
Shipsational was one of the better juveniles in the New York-bred ranks last year when winning a pair of stakes at Belmont, including the one-mile Funny Cide S. Strike Hard, meanwhile, finished second as the odds-on choice in the Jan. 1 Mucho Man S. at Gulfstream to Simplification, runner-up in last week’s Holy Bull.
The Davis will award Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the respective top four finishers.
Suncoast S. — Race 8 (3:49 p.m. ET)
Nest figures to be an overwhelming favorite to climb up the Kentucky Oaks (G1) points leaderboard in the $150,000 Suncoast S. over one mile and 40 yards.
The Todd Pletcher trainee earned 10 points when taking the Dec. 4 Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct by a neck, and thus owns a significant class edge against her seven rivals. The Suncoast will award Oaks qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers.
The only other stakes winner in the Suncoast field is Alittleloveandluck, victorious in the Ginger Brew S. over the turf at Gulfstream on New Year’s Day. The Arrogate field finished third in her only prior attempt on dirt.
Ha’ Penny stretches out following a fourth in the seven-furlong Gasparilla S., while debut maiden winners Princess Elin and Peaceful Surprise remain with upside.
Pelican S. — Race 7 (3:18 p.m. ET)
Baby Yoda and King Guillermo are the marquee names in the $100,000 Pelican S., a seven-furlong dash for older horses.
Baby Yoda skyrocketed to attention last summer with a pair of fast overnight wins at Saratoga, but faltered at short odds in both the Vosburgh (G2) and Steel Valley Sprint. However, the Bill Mott trainee outrun all save the tremendous Flightline in the Malibu (G1) when last seen in late December.
King Guillermo shortens up and adds blinkers in a quest for his first victory since the 2020 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).