by Mike Henry

Rattle N Roll, who won the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity on Oct. 9 at Keeneland in his most recent start, and Make It Big, whose 3-for-3 record includes two stakes victories, head a list of 48 nominations for the 42nd renewal of the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Feb. 12 Festival Preview Day card at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Sam F. Davis Stakes, contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main dirt track, is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, with the top four finishers receiving points on a 10-4-2-1 scale toward qualifying for a spot in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 7. The Sam F. Davis is also a precursor to the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race awarding 50, 20, 10 and 5 points to the first four finishers.

Three other stakes are scheduled on the Festival Preview Day card. They include the $150,000, mile-and-40-yard Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, which is a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points race; the $100,000, 6-furlong Pelican Stakes, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward; and the $50,000, 6-furlong Minaret Stakes, for fillies and mares 4-and-upward.

The list of Sam F. Davis nominations includes eight from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the race a record six times, most recently with Destin in 2016. Heading the list of Pletcher-trained candidates is Mo Donegal, who wo the Grade II Remsen Stakes on Dec. 4 at Aqueduct, and Emmanuel, who won today’s sixth race (see below).

Rattle N Roll, a Kentucky-bred colt owned by the Mackin family’s Lucky Seven Stable and trained by Ken McPeek, won the mile-and-a-sixteenth Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity by a widening 4 ¼ lengths under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. After targeting a start in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at Del Mar, McPeek changed course after the horse developed a minor foot issue.

Rattle N Roll returned to the workout tab earlier this month at Gulfstream Park and breezed 3 furlongs Saturday in 35.67 seconds.

Make It Big, a Florida-bred colt owned by Red Oak Stable and trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., won the Ocala Stud Juvenile Sprint Stakes on Oct. 30 at Gulfstream and the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes on Dec. 17 at Remington Park in his last two starts. Jose Ortiz was aboard for the most recent victory.

Here are the links to the nominations and their past performances for the Sam F. Davis Stakes:

There are 21 sophomore fillies nominated to the 42nd edition of the Suncoast Stakes, with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s Florida-bred Outfoxed among the standouts. The LNJ Foxwoods-owned filly has won three consecutive stakes races, including the Gasparilla Stakes here on Jan. 15.

Pletcher has nominated five fillies to the race. Included in that group is Nest, who won the Grade II Demoiselle Stakes on Dec. 4 at Aqueduct. Nest is owned by Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House.

Here are the links to the nominations and their past performances for the Suncoast Stakes:

The 38th running of the Pelican Stakes attracted 21 nominations. Here are the links to those nominations and past performances:

The 41st running of the Minaret Stakes drew 21 nominations, as well. Here are the links to the nominations and their past performances:

Emmanuel impressive in 3-year-old debut. As Pablo Morales returned to the jockeys’ room alongside assistant trainer Juan Aguayo after his victory aboard Emmanuel in the sixth race, a fan pretty much summed up what he felt privileged to observe.

“That was a magic carpet ride,” the spectator said. Morales nodded in assent.

Emmanuel, whose scheduled 2022 debut here on Jan. 7 was pushed back after he spiked a temperature, made the wait worthwhile today with a highly professional 4 ½-length victory from Glider in the sixth race, the mile-and-40-yard Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week.

Already considered a Kentucky Derby prospect by a number of experts, the Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-old colt broke alertly under Morales and led the six-horse field throughout. Trainer Mark Casse’s colt Glider challenged at the 1/8-mile pole under Antonio Gallardo, but Emmanuel, as it turned out, was just getting started, as he finished in 1:40.24, impressive time on the fast but slightly tiring dirt surface.

Pletcher’s other horse in the race, In the Union, finished third.

“I’m very pleased with the way he handled the two turns,” Pletcher said via text message. “We will keep all options open for his next start.” Pletcher added that the Feb. 12 Sam F. Davis Stakes would be too soon to bring him back, but Tampa Bay Downs Racing Office officials will be working overtime to land him for the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12.

Morales was more expansive in his comments, having piloted the Ferrari-like colt around the track.

“Just a class horse. I felt like I had so many gears underneath me,” Morales said. “Every time I would just move a hair, he would take off a little bit more and just do it easily. He felt (Glider) coming on the inside down the lane, so I decided to give him a little bit of a hand ride and I could feel him extending more and more.

“He just did it easy – it felt like a workout for him. He acts like an old horse who has run 100 times and he gives you what you ask out of him. I’m thankful I was considered to ride him. It was a pleasure.”

To casual observers, Emmanuel, a son of More Than Ready out of the Hard Spun mare Hard Cloth, seems to be setting out on a similar 3-year-old path as Pletcher’s Always Dreaming in 2017. Always Dreaming broke his maiden here on Jan. 25 at the mile-and-40 distance in his third career start. What came next? Victories in an allowance/optional claiming event and the Grade I Xpressbet Florida Derby at Gulfstream, followed by a triumph in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.

Around the oval. Jose Batista rode three winners today. He won the second race with Atlantic Princess, a 4-year-old filly owned by Pedro Posadas and trained by Bobby Raymond. Atlantic Princess was claimed from the race for $6,250 by trainer Douglas Nunn for new owner Winners Circle Racing Stable.

Batista next won the seventh race on the turf on Sip’n Dip, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Kingdom Racing and trained by John P. Mc Allen. He added the eighth with Maricopa, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Carole Star Stables and trained by Jose H. Delgado.

Samy Camacho and Isaac Castillo each rode two winners. Camacho won the third race with American Express, a 4-year-old filly owned by Tage Boohit and trained by Karyn Philipp. The track’s leading rider added the fifth on the turf on Panadero, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Lone Stable and traiued by Juan Carlos Avila.

Castillo won the first race on Quick Intro, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Curragh Stables and trained by John P. Terranova, II. Castillo added the fourth aboard first-time starter One Lucky Day, a 3-year-old gelding owned by John Donaldson and trained by Kathleen O’Connell.

Thoroughbred racing continues Wednesday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:15 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 17, when the track is closed.

Otherwise, the Oldsmar oval 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.