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Published Jan 31, 2024
by Mike Henry
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has enjoyed a stranglehold on the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes since 2006, winning the Kentucky Derby prep race seven times in […]

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has enjoyed a stranglehold on the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes since 2006, winning the Kentucky Derby prep race seven times in the last 18 years.

Judging from the nominations for this season’s Sam F. Davis, Pletcher is eager to extend that dominance.

Seven of the 40 nominees for the 44th edition of the race, the headliner on Tampa Bay Downs’s Feb. 10 Festival Preview Day 44 card, are Pletcher trainees, including Eclipse Award Champion Two-Year-Old Male Fierceness, breeder-owner Repole Stable’s winner of the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

While Fierceness is entered in Saturday’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park and unlikely to be entered in the Sam F. Davis barring a late reversal of plans, it’s logical to assume Pletcher will find one or two others in an attempt to enlarge his collection of Sam F. Davis winners: Bluegrass Cat (2006), Any Given Saturday (2007), Rule (2010), Brethren (2011), Vinceremos (2014), Destin (2016) and Litigate (2023).

More on Pletcher’s Sam F. Davis nominees can be found below.

The Sam F. Davis is a mile-and-a-sixteenth “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race awarding 20 points to the winner and 10, 6, 4 and 2 points to the next four finishers toward qualifying for a starting berth in the 150th running of the Run for the Roses on May 4 at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Named after the former president of Tampa Bay Downs, the Sam F, Davis is one of four stakes scheduled for the main track on the Festival Preview Day 44 card.

The 44th running of the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards is a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points race, with the top five receiving 20-10-6-4-2 points toward qualifying for the May 3 distaff classic.

The Suncoast Stakes attracted 21 nominations, five trained by Pletcher. That quintet includes Grade II Demoiselle Stakes winner Life Talk, owned by Repole Stable, and the outfit’s Scalable, who finished second in the Grade II Chandelier Stakes. Life Talks and Scalable were fourth and fifth last fall in the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Trainer Mark Casse has nominated owner Gary Barber’s Witwatersrand, who won the Grade III Mazarine Stakes on Nov. 4 at Woodbine. Another Suncoast nominee with proven stakes credentials is Red Oak Stable’s Gorgeous Girl, who finished second here on Jan. 13 in the Gasparilla Stakes. Gregg Sacco is the trainer.

Here is the link to the nominations for the Suncoast Stakes, followed by a link to their past performances:



Feb. 10’s other stakes are the 40th running of the $100,000 Pelican Stakes, a 6-furlong sprint for horses 4-years-old-and-upward, and the 43rd edition of the $50,000 Minaret Stakes, a 6-furlong event for fillies and mares 4-and-upward.

The Pelican closed with 17 nominations. Among the possibles are Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s 6-year-old gelding Baby Yoda, who was second in the 2022 Pelican, and Grade III winner Little Vic, a 5-year-old from the barn of trainer Juan Carlos Avila.

Here is the link to the nominations for the Pelican Stakes, followed by a link to their past performances:



The Minaret attracted 17 nominations, as well. Heading the list is trainer Wesley Ward’s 5-year-old mare Chi Town Lady, who won the Grade I Longines Test Stakes in 2022 at Saratoga and has amassed career earnings of $462,913.

The Minaret nominees also include Lady Radler, a 4-year-old filly owned by Mellon Patch, Inc., and trained by Michael Campbell. She is 5-for-11, including a victory last September in the Grade III Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Here is the link to the nominations for the Minaret Stakes, followed by a link to their past performances:



Back to trainer Pletcher’s seemingly delicious dilemma approaching the Sam F. Davis. With Fierceness Holy Bull-bound, Pletcher may turn to Locked, a son of Gun Runner owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Walmac Farm, to extend his Sam F. Davis record. Locked was almost as good as any 2-year-old last fall, winning the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland before running third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.

Pletcher could also choose to enter Noted, a stakes winner on both dirt and turf owned by Repole Stable, or one of several others as they round into form for their 3-year-old campaigns.

Owner Mellon Patch, Inc., and trainer Michael Campbell have nominated Patriot Spirit, their son of Constitution who breezed 4 furlongs here on Jan. 25 in 48 4/5 seconds as he prepares for his first start as a 3-year-old. Patriot Spirit won the Inaugural Stakes here on Dec. 2.

Book’em Danno, the speedy winner of the Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 13, is among the Sam F. Davis nominees, but trainer Derek Ryan is expected to run him next in the $1.5-million Saudi Derby in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 24. Book’em Danno breezed 5 furlongs here Sunday in 1:02.

Trainer Jose Francisco D’Angelo has nominated four horses to the Sam F. Davis. One, Morplay Racing’s No More Time, is entered in the Holy Bull, while the others are still maidens.

Other impressive-looking Sam F. Davis nominees include Grade II Remsen Stakes runner-up Sierra Leone, trained by Chad Brown; trainer Larry Demeritte’s Grade III stakes winner West Saratoga, a distant second to Book’em Danno in the Pasco; Grade II-placed Fulmineo, trained by Arnaud Delacour; Otello, the winner of the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 1 at Gulfstream, trained by Christophe Clement; and Inaugural runner-up Crazy Mason, owned by Donna Wright and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and trained by Gregg Sacco.

Here is the link to the nominations for the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes, followed by a link to their past performances:




Turf Champions Day is Saturday. The 38th edition of the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes and the 25th running of the Grade III, $175,000 Endeavour Stakes, both at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf course, are the co-feature events on Saturday’s 10-race “Turf Champions Day” card.

Seven older fillies and mares are entered in the Endeavour, which is the sixth race on the program. Trainer Chad Brown, who has won the race a record four times, has entered both Klaravich Stables’s 5-year-old Consumer Spending and 4-year-old Implicated, owned by Bradley Thoroughbreds, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Cambron Equine and Laura Leigh Stable.

Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano has been named to ride Consumer Spending, while leading Oldsmar jockey Samy Camacho will be on Implicated.

Trainer H. Graham Motion, who has won the Endeavour twice, also has two entrants: 5-year-old Willakia, owned by Stonestreet Stables, and 5-year-old Sparkle Blue, owned by Augustin Stable and Catherine Parke.

Vincent Cheminaud is named on Willakia and Jorge Ruiz will ride Sparkle Blue.

The afternoon’s excitement will build to a crescendo for the Tampa Bay Stakes, which is the 10th race on the program. Hall of Fame conditioner Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III, will go for his fourth triumph in the race with Never Explain, a 6-year-old son of Street Sense owned by Courtlandt Farms. Cheminaud will ride Never Explain from the No. 1 post.

Other top contenders appear to be Olympic Runner, trainer Mark Casse’s 8-year-old gelding who is a Grade II winner, and Winfromwithin, trainer William E. Morey’s 6-year-old who finished second in last year’s Tampa Bay Stakes and holds the 1-mile Oldsmar turf course record of 1:33.23, set as a 3-year-old in the 2021 Columbia Stakes.

Camacho will ride Olympic Runner, with Jose Ferrer named on Winfromwithin. Assigned the outside No. 10 post is Chad Brown’s 5-year-old Running Bee, to be ridden by Castellano.

Around the oval. Leading jockey Samy Camacho and apprentice Melissa Iorio each rode two winners today. Camacho captured the first race on Tripulante, a 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Jake Spooner and trained by Anthony Granitz. Camacho added the sixth aboard Expecting a Winner, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Winning Stables and trained by Gerald Bennett.

Expecting a Winner was claimed from the victory for $16,000 by trainer Leslielyn Hardesty for new owner Happy Tenth Stable.

Iorio won the third race on the turf on Mya C, a 3-year-old filly owned by Happy Tenth Stable and trained by Leslielyn Hardesty. Iorio added the eighth race with Queen Arella, a 6-year-old mare owned and trained by Mike Ferraro.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:32 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule and is open every day 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.


Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has enjoyed a stranglehold on the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes since 2006, winning the Kentucky Derby prep race seven times in […]

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