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The top four finishers from the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 1 returned to the Palm Meadows Training Center track in Boynton Beach this weekend for their first workouts since their electrifying stretch duel, in which they were separated by a margin of less than a length.
Nominations close Saturday for the March 8 running of the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby – the centerpiece of the track’s annual Festival Day celebration – and area fans would welcome nothing more than a renewal of the battle royale two weeks ago.
The Festival Day card, the richest in the track’s 88-year history, also offers the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf and the Grade III, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf.
Top-two Sam F. Davis finishers Vinceremos and Harpoon – both trained by Todd Pletcher – breezed four furlongs today, with Harpoon getting the half-mile in 48.05 seconds (sixth best of 55 works at the distance) and Vinceremos being clocked in 49.30.
Cousin Stephen, the third-place Sam F. Davis finisher from the barn of Chad Brown, went four furlongs in 48.95 seconds Saturday. The Mark Casse-trained Matador, who was fourth in the Davis, also went out Saturday, breezing five furlongs in 1:02.75, as the quartet of Triple Crown hopefuls resumed serious preparations for their next engagement – whether in Oldsmar or another stop on the trail to Louisville and a rendezvous with destiny in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.
The mile-and-a-sixteenth Tampa Bay Derby is part of Churchill Downs’ “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Championship Series points system that determines the 20 entrants for the Run for the Roses. The Tampa Bay Derby awards 50 points to the winner, 20 points for second, 10 for third and 5 for fourth.
Vinceremos gave Pletcher and owner WinStar Farm LLC their fifth Sam F. Davis Stakes victory in nine years (the Kentucky-bred colt is co-owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC).
His nose margin over the onrushing Harpoon also gave Hudson, Fla., resident Ben Wheelock and his wife Carline a huge rooting interest for the Tampa Bay Derby, should Vinceremos return here on March 8.
By winning the Sam F. Davis, Vinceremos made his owners eligible for the brand-new Tampa Bay Downs Million Dollar Derby Bonus, payable if he goes on to win the Tampa Bay Derby and Kentucky Derby. And if Vinceremos accomplishes that astounding feat, the Wheelocks will win $100,000 through the Lambholm South Fan Bonus.
The Wheelocks will be guests of Tampa Bay Downs for Festival Day on March 8. Mr. Wheelock, who turned 80 in December, is a retired harness racing driver who competed at Scarborough Downs and Bangor Raceway in Maine for more than 30 years.
He became eligible for the $100,000 bonus by picking Vinceremos and having winning jockey Edgar Prado draw his name from among the roughly 300 fans who selected the Davis winner.
In today’s action, four bettors cashed Super High-5 tickets worth $24,253 after the fourth race. The winning combination was 3-1-6-5-8, with 8-1 shot Sweet Afleet – a 4-year-old filly owned by Wildcat Thoroughbred, LLC, trained by Bernell Rhone and ridden by Dean Butler – rallying for the victory from 17-1 shot Monjablanca.
Jockeys Ademar Santos and Victor Lebron won two races apiece on today’s card. Santos won the second race on 6-year-old gelding Sand Bandit for owners Nannette and James McCullough (the latter is the trainer). Santos added the ninth on 3-year-old filly Flirting Clara for owner Team Grande Racing, LLC and trainer Chad Stewart.
In the sixth race on the turf, Lebron and 4-year-old gelding Quelch were elevated to first place when Danly’s Dream was disqualified for interference in the stretch. Quelch is owned by Romar, LLC and trained by Wayne Mogge.
Lebron and 4-year-old colt Good Tickled were first across the line in the seventh, winning for owner Silverton Hill, LLC and trainer Darrin Miller.
Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs resumes with a 10-race card Wednesday beginning at 12:25 p.m. The track conducts racing five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, in February.
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.

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