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February 03, 2018


by Mike Henry
Multiple graded-stakes winner Catholic Boy looms as a headliner for Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Saturday, Feb. 10; Ronnie Allen, Jr., rides two winners.

Tampa Bay Downs joins the 2018 Triple Crown trail on Saturday, Feb. 10 with the 38th edition of the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds, the centerpiece of a Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South card offering $750,000 in stakes purses alone.

Also scheduled are the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for older horses on the turf, expected to mark the seasonal debut of the 2017 Eclipse Champion Male Turf Horse, 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding World Approval; the Grade III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf; and the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

The Sam F. Davis, which is contested on the main track at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth, is expected to feature Robert V. LaPenta’s colt Catholic Boy, who won the Grade II Remsen Stakes on Dec. 2 at Aqueduct in his most recent start. Trained by Jonathan Thomas, Catholic Boy also won the Grade III With Anticipation Stakes as a 2-year-old on Aug. 30 on the turf at Saratoga.

LaPenta is a co-owner of Tapwrit, who won last year’s Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby after finishing second in the Sam F. Davis and went on to capture the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRABets.

The Sam F. Davis Stakes is a Kentucky Derby points race, with the first four finishers earning points toward eligibility for the May 5 Run for the Roses.

For the first time, the Suncoast Stakes is a Road to the Kentucky Oaks points event. That Churchill Downs staple will be contested May 4.

More information on Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South and its participants will be forthcoming in subsequent press releases.

In today’s action, jockey Wilmer Garcia was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa after being unseated in the fourth race on the turf when his mount, 3-year-old gelding Power Hitter, clipped heels with Seminole Charlie in the stretch. Both horses completed the course and were reported in good condition afterward.

The race was won by Roble Cayeyano.

Garcia was diagnosed with a broken left clavicle and a broken right wrist and will be out of action for an indefinite period.

In today’s sixth race, a 1-mile starter allowance on the turf for older fillies and mares, 4-year-old Jermyn Street and 5-year-old Believe Indeed renewed their rivalry from the Jan. 6 Tampa Turf Test, with Jermyn Street prevailing again, this time by a neck after her previous length-and-a-quarter victory.

Veteran Jose Ferrer rode Jermyn Street, who has won three in a row here for owners Vince Campanella and Nation’s Racing Stable and trainer Keith Nations. She paid $3.80 as the betting favorite.

In the eighth race, the Lambholm South Race of the Week for older horses sprinting 5 furlongs on the turf, Epic Drama survived a pace duel with Go Cristian Go to post a neck victory from a fast-closing Fortythreeoeight N, with Go Cristian Go a nose back in third.

Epic Drama, who paid $11.60, is a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding racing for his breeder, Harold L. Queen, and trained by Gerald Bennett. Willie Martinez was the jockey.

Ronnie Allen, Jr., rode two winners today. He was victorious in the fifth race on 4-year-old filly Silly Factor, owned by Keith and Justin Johns and trained by Justin Johns. Allen added the seventh on La Femme Royale, a 3-year-old filly owned by William and Marty Johnson and trained by Randy Klopp.

Sunday’s nine-race card begins at 12:44 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.

“Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest begins Feb. 10. The annual “Live It Up Challenge” online handicapping contest begins on Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South, Saturday, Feb. 10.

The contest, which runs through Florida Cup Day on March 25, provides handicappers of all experience levels an opportunity to compete free of charge to win cash prizes, a seat in the 2019 World Championship of Handicapping and a pair of finish-line box seats at this year’s Belmont Stakes on June 9.

Registration is free at and participants must register by 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 10 to be eligible. Once registered, players must log on to the contest website each day and select one entry from that day’s two randomly selected “challenge races.” Each day’s results are determined by a mythical $2 win-place-show wager on a player’s pick.

Players begin the contest with a free lifeline, which enables them to continue should their choice fail to finish first, second or third, or they do not enter a selection for that day. Four additional lifelines are available at a cost of $5 each upon sign-up, with additional lifelines provided on Feb. 16 for $10 each and March 9 for $25.

The first-place finisher receives $1,000, a seat in the online World Championship of Handicapping and two seats for the Belmont Stakes. The second-place finisher receives $500.