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February 01, 2020


by Mike Henry
Eyes of the Thoroughbred world turn next week to the Oldsmar oval, with three graded stakes and Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and Kentucky Oaks points up for grabs.

Unbeaten 3-year-old Independence Hall and Eclipse Award Turf Female finalist Got Stormy are expected to be the headliners on next Saturday’s Festival Preview Day card at Tampa Bay Downs.

The stakes-laden program consists of three graded events, topped by the 40th edition of the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds, which is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race.

Also scheduled are the Grade III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on the turf, for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward; the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward; and the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points race.

The Sam F. Davis, which is run on the main track at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth, is expected to attract eight or more sophomores, led by the Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables and Kathleen Verratti and Robert Verratti-owned colt Independence Hall, whose 3-for-3 resume includes victories in the Grade III Nashua Stakes and the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct.

Michael Trombetta trains Independence Hall, who breezed 5 furlongs here Sunday in a minute flat, the fastest of 34 recorded workouts that day at the distance. Jose Ortiz is expected to be in town for the riding assignment.

Among those expected to challenge Independence Hall, who is considered a leading candidate for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 2 at Churchill Downs, are Grade III Grey Stakes winner Chapalu, trained by Arnaud Delacour; Grade II Remsen Stakes runner-up Ajaaweed, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin; trainer Michael Stidham’s stakes winner Albert Park, who finished second here in the Pasco Stakes on Jan. 18; turf stakes winner Sole Volante, from the barn of trainer Patrick Biancone; stakes-placed No Getting Over Me, trained by leading Oldsmar conditioner Gerald Bennett; and allowance winner Super John, trained by John Servis.

Allowance winner Premier Star, trained by Jorge Navarro, is currently listed as a Sam F. Davis possible.

The Sam F. Davis, which is the major prep race for the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby here on March 7, awards Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

Leading the list of candidates for the 21st running of the Lambholm South Endeavour is Gary Barber’s 5-year-old mare Got Stormy, whose outstanding 2019 campaign included a victory in the Grade I Fourstardave Handicap against males at Saratoga, a victory in the Grade I Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar and a runner-up effort to eventual Eclipse award winner Uni in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

Mark Casse trains Got Stormy, who is 8-for-18 with career earnings of $1,430,578. The conditioner won both the Lambholm South Endeavour and the Grade II Hillsborough Stakes here in 2016 with superstar Tepin. Tyler Gaffalione will be the jockey on Got Stormy.

As of today, trainer Chad Brown was considering sending one of two 5-year-old mares from their south Florida base to Tampa Bay Downs for the Lambholm South Endeavour: Tapit Today, who won an allowance/optional claiming race here on Dec. 28, or the French-bred Altea.

Got Stormy’s other challengers are expected to include trainer Tom Albertrani’s 5-year-old mare Andina Del Sur, who won the Grade III Florida Oaks here in 2018 and has won stakes races in two of her last four starts; multiple stakes-winning 6-year-old Dynatail, trained by Mike Dini; 6-year-old Quick Witted, trained by Ignacio Correas, IV; and trainer Jordan Blair’s 6-year-old Phantom Opening, an impressive winner of an allowance/optional claiming race here on Jan. 10.

Biancone may send 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Kelsey’s Cross.

While Got Stormy’s record stamps her as the class of the Lambholm South Endeavour, the 34th edition of the Tampa Bay Stakes, as of this writing, appears to have the potential to be a wide-open slugfest.

Trainer H. Graham Motion is expected to enter Calumet Farm’s 4-year-old English Bee, who won the Grade III New Kent County Virginia Derby last August at Colonial Downs. The son of English Channel is likely to face a stern test from a pair of Florida-breds: trainer Tom Proctor’s multiple stakes-winning 6-year-old gelding Caribou Club and Grade II winner March to the Arch, a 5-year-old Casse trainee who won the Florida Cup Touch Vodka Turf Classic here on March 31 and the Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes on Jan. 18 at Gulfstream.

Other expected starters include 5-year-old Maraud, a multiple graded-stakes winner trained by Joseph Orseno; trainer Todd Pletcher’s 4-year-old colt Halladay, winner of the Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream five weeks ago; graded-stakes winner Real Story, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Correas; Bourbon War, a 4-year-old colt trained by Mark Hennig who finished second in last year’s Grade II Fountain of Youth and competed in the Preakness and Belmont; as well as 2017 Hawthorne Derby winner My Bariley, stakes winners Renaisance Frolic and Admiralty Pier and Sentry.

The 40th Suncoast Stakes, to be contested at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards on the main track, is likely to draw eight or more sophomore fillies in quest of Kentucky Oaks qualifying points. Prominent among the probables are Gary Barber’s recent Gasparilla Stakes winner Two Sixty, a Florida-bred daughter of Uncaptured trained by Casse; Sandpiper Stakes winner Lucrezia, a daughter of Into Mischief owned by Beverly S. Anderson and Edward A. Seltzer and trained by Arnaud Delacour; and Godolphin-owned homebred Embossed, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro trained by Stidham.

Also likely to compete are trainer Ken McPeek’s Motu, off since a second-place effort Nov. 30 in the Grade II Golden Rod Stakes on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs; Gasparilla third-place finisher We the Clouds and Whisper Slow, both trained by Tim Hamm; and Miss Important, who broke her maiden for McPeek on Dec. 19 at Turfway Park.

Around the oval. Leading jockey Antonio Gallardo rode two winners today. He captured the second race on Freddy Soto, a 3-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by Alexandres, LLC and trained by Antonio Sano. Gallardo added the sixth aboard So Cunning, a 4-year-old filly bred and owned by Leverett Miller and Linda Miller and trained by Christophe Clement.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. The track is open every day except Easter Sunday, April 12 for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.