Pasco Stakes winner Dynamic Sky, from the potent barn of trainer Mark Casse, headlines a 10-horse field for Saturday’s Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, one of three graded events on the track’s lucrative 12-race Festival Preview Day.
The improving Ontario-bred 3-year-old is owned by Oklahoma oilman John C. Oxley, who campaigned 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. Oxley and Casse teamed to win both the Pasco and Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby last year with Prospective, who finished second to Battle Hardened in the Sam F. Davis.
Luis Contreras, who rode Prospective in each of his 2012 starts at Tampa Bay Downs, has the assignment on Dynamic Sky.
Festival Preview Day marks the first time in the 87-year history of Tampa Bay Downs three graded stakes will be contested on one day. The Grade III, $150,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies and the Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares will both be run on the turf course.
All three races will be at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth. The 33rd running of the Davis is a precursor to the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9, with all roads subsequently leading to the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands on May 4.
The Davis will be the 11th race Saturday, with the 30th renewal of the Florida Oaks as the seventh and the 14th running of the Endeavour the ninth on the card.
In addition to trying to improve on Prospective’s 2012 Davis performance, Dynamic Sky will seek his third stakes victory from six lifetime starts. He won the $200,000 Simcoe Stakes as a 2-year-old in September at Woodbine on the Toronto track’s all-weather surface.
Dynamic Sky also finished second last year in the Grade I Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland before heading west for the Grade I Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, where he finished sixth, five-and-a-quarter lengths behind winner Shanghai Bobby.
The $100,000 Pasco Stakes was Dynamic Sky’s first effort as a 3-year-old. In the Davis, Dynamic Sky, who has drawn the No. 9 post, will run as a wagering entry with the Oxley-owned and Casse-trained Northern Lion, who broke his maiden in his previous race at Gulfstream on Dec. 22 by five-and-a-half lengths at the mile-and-a-sixteenth Davis distance. Patrick Husbands has the riding assignment.
Among Dynamic Sky’s opponents in the Davis will be a pair of familiar faces, Hardaway Stables, Inc.’s Speak Logistics and Silverton Hill LLC’s Divine Ambition.
Stakes winner Speak Logistics, who is from the barn of leading south Florida-based trainer Edward Plesa, Jr., will be making his 3-year-old debut. He last raced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finishing seventh, a half-length behind Dynamic Sky, after prompting the early pace. Leading Tampa Bay Downs jockey Angel Serpa will ride Speak Logistics.
Divine Ambition, who is trained by Darrin Miller, ran a strong third in the Pasco in only his third career start, behind Dynamic Sky and Casse-trained stablemate Sky Commander. Divine Ambition will be ridden by former Tampa Bay Downs leading jockey Willie Martinez.
The other Davis entrants with their trainers and jockeys include stakes-placed My Name Is Michael, trained by William Mott and to be ridden by Joel Rosario; Falling Sky, trained by John Terranova, II with Luis Saez in the saddle; Lightning Stone, trained by William Allyn, with Danny Coa named to ride; Silver Day, trained by William Kaplan with Marcelino Pedroza aboard; Balino, trained by Bernell Rhone, Nik Goodwin riding; and supplemental entry Midnite Poppa, from the barn of Nick Zito, Jose Lezcano up.
Both the Florida Oaks and Endeavour fields will consist of 12 horses, as the Tampa Bay Downs turf course continues to attract acclaim from horsemen far and wide. The Endeavour actually attracted 14 entrants, with Font and Last Full Measure currently on the sidelines but able to join the fun in the case of a late scratch.
Both races appear to be extremely wide-open affairs. In the Florida Oaks, favoritism may fall to Kitten’s Dumplings, who won the La Senorita Stakes on the turf at Retama Park two starts back. The 3-year-old Kentucky-bred is owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey and trained by Michael Maker and will be ridden by Angel Serpa.
Other strong entrants should include the William Mott-trained Tapicat, Joel Rosario up from Gulfstream for the ride; Chad Brown-trained Wave Theory, to be ridden by Jose Lezcano; and Rusty Slipper, a supplemental entry from the barn of H. Graham Motion, Daniel Centeno in the saddle.
Casse, who has entered both Floral Sky and the lightly-raced Jadira in the Florida Oaks, is also represented in the Endeavour by Exclusive Love, who was the runner-up in last year’s edition of the race to eventual Eclipse Award-winning turf female Zagora.
Chad Brown, the trainer of Zagora – who completed her stellar 2012 season with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf – has entered both Dealbata and Pianist in the Endeavour.
The Ireland-bred Dealbata is owned by Zagora’s former owner, Martin S. Schwartz, and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano. She has finished first or second in seven of her eight lifetime starts and was most recently second last September in the Grade III Nobel Damsel on the turf at Belmont.
Jockey Fernando De La Cruz has been selected as the Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Jockey of the Month. The 26-year-old native of Huancavelica, Peru currently is third in the Tampa Bay Downs standings with 22 victories. He is the older brother of jockey Walter De La Cruz.
Augusto A. Marin rode two winners on Wednesday’s card. In the first race, a seven-furlong maiden claiming race, Marin was aboard 3-year-old filly Peaceful Boundary for owner John Rosselle and trainer Dana Vacca.
Marin’s winning mount in the seventh race, 4-year-old filly Audington, lit up the board to the tune of $47.40 in the mile turf claiming race. It was Audington’s first start since being claimed by owner-trainer Cathy Cole-Rivera from her previous race. Audington won in a driving finish from Is It Tee and The West Rim.
Live racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes Thursday with a nine-race card, with a first-race post time 12:38 p.m. There is a Pick-5 carryover of $13,016.67.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.