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February 11, 2018


by Mike Henry
Casse says versatile Ontario-bred will be nominated to Triple Crown; Thursday racing this week and next.

Mark Casse, the trainer of record-setting Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Flameaway, confirmed today that the 3-year-old colt is likely to return for the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 10.

The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is at the same mile-and-a-sixteenth distance Flameaway toured Saturday in 1:42.44, bettering McCraken’s 2017 stakes mark by .01 seconds.

“I had that conversation with Mr. (John C.) Oxley (Flameaway’s owner) this morning, and that is the plan,” said Casse, who teamed with Oxley to win the 2012 Tampa Bay Derby with Prospective.

Flameaway and World Approval, the Casse-trained 6-year-old gelding who won the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf, returned Saturday night to the conditioner’s Palm Meadows Training Center base in Boynton Beach, along with Casse’s La Coronel, who finished second to Dona Bruja in the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on the turf.

Casse said that if all goes well with La Coronel’s training, she could return March 10 for the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf.

Flameaway was the big story Saturday, as the 10-1 shot fought back a stern challenge from favorite Catholic Boy to post a half-length victory under jockey Jose Lezcano. The victorious son of Scat Daddy-Vulcan Rose, by Fusaichi Pegasus, set the pace every step of the way before being headed at the eighth pole, but he dug in again to regain control.

“When you think about they’ve been running the (Sam F. Davis, since 1981), and you look at all the horses that have won it. …” Casse said, referring to the record time. “And he beat a solid group of horses. We’re extremely proud of him.”

It was the second Grade III victory for Flameaway, who is 5-for-7 lifetime with earnings of $434,834. He has won at five different tracks and on a synthetic track, a muddy track, a sloppy track, turf and dirt.

“Any time you see a horse that wins more than he loses, that is an exceptional horse,” Casse said.

Interestingly, Flameaway was the only one of the six Sam F. Davis entrants not yet nominated to the Triple Crown. “We’ll fix that,” Casse said.

Catholic Boy returned to trainer Jonathan Thomas’ Bridlewood Farm base in Ocala earlier today. Thomas had said before the Sam F. Davis that the colt could race next in either the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby or the Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream, but amended that today by saying “everything is in play.”

Ideally, Thomas would like to get one more race into Catholic Boy before a possible try in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 5. “It’s important to not panic or try to force the issue,” Thomas said, looking at the glass as considerably more than half-full.

“Catholic Boy replicated his 91 Beyer (Speed Figure) from the Grade II Remsen (in December at Aqueduct) and he’s healthy. In retrospect, I might have been a little light on him from a training perspective, but we’re anticipating a long spring. We’ll probably try to have one more prep and if he’s good enough, he will earn his way into (the Run for the Roses).”

Thomas said he will also monitor where other top contenders go as trainers seek the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points needed to qualify for the race. Flameaway picked up 10 points for his victory, Catholic Boy 4 for second, Vino Rosso 2 for third and Hollywood Star 1 for fourth.

World Approval, the reigning Eclipse Award Champion Turf Male, is being pointed for the $6-million Dubai Turf on March 31. He was ridden Saturday by John Velazquez.

“That’s still the plan, but it is not written in stone,” Casse said. “There is not any pressure from Mrs. Weber (owner Charlotte Weber) to get there. Ultimately, she will make the final call.”

World Approval is 3-for-3 at Tampa Bay Downs, his two earlier triumphs coming in Florida Cup victories. The Tampa Bay Stakes victory raised his career bankroll above $3-million.

Two horses fell during the Tampa Bay Stakes, with Doctor Mounty going down first and Cheyenne’s Colonel tumbling trying to avoid Doctor Mounty. Both horses completed the course without a rider and returned to their barns unhurt.

Antonio Gallardo, the jockey on Doctor Mounty, sat out Saturday’s last race but returned to ride today’s full card. Manoel Cruz, who rode Cheyenne’s Colonel, took off his only assignment today but was reported to be in good shape.

Ignacio Correas, IV, the trainer of 6-year-old Argentine-bred Dona Bruja, plans to give breeder-owner Ivan Roberto Gasparotto’s mare some time off after her Lambholm South Endeavour victory Saturday, achieved in gate-to-wire fashion under jockey Jose Ortiz.

“I wanted her to run here because I thought she would like this turf course,” Correas said. “It was great to see her perform the way she did, but she gave everything and I don’t prefer to run her back in four weeks (in the Hillsborough) because she runs very well when she’s fresh.

“She’s a very special horse who is easy to train and does everything well. There is no doubt now that she is as good as she was last year (when she won two Grade III turf stakes and dead-heated for second in the Grade I Beverly D.),” Correas said.

Correas indicated Dona Bruja could run next in the Grade I Coolmore Jenny Wiley on April 14 at Keeneland, with another try in the Beverly D. in August likely.

Around the oval. Thoroughbred racing at Tampa Bay Downs continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:23 p.m. There is a Pick-5 carryover pool of $33,686.86 (since nobody hit the Pick-5 today) that will apply to the late Pick-5 on races 5-9.

The pool for the early Pick-5, races 1-5, will start from scratch.

The Oldsmar oval adds Thursday racing to the mix this week and on Feb. 22, then returns to a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule beginning Feb. 28.

Stakes action at the Oldsmar oval continues Saturday with the 34th edition of the $100,000 Pelican Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward at a distance of 6 furlongs and the 37th running of the $50,000 Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward, also going 6 furlongs.

In today’s feature race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week (contested as the seventh race on the turf), 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Classy Woman took control early and held on for a two-length victory from First Kiss. The winner’s time for the mile-and-an-eighth was 1:52.14.

Jose Alvarez rode Classy Woman, who was bred by Moises Yanez and is owned by Del Sol Farm and Gordon W. Bredeson and trained by Karen Yanez.

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.