by Mike Henry

Classic Causeway, who turned in a dominating performance in Saturday’s Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, is likely to return to the Oldsmar oval for the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, trainer Brian Lynch said this morning.

“We’re looking forward to coming back,” Lynch said from his Palm Meadows Training Center base, where Classic Causeway “looked happy and spunky” after his 3 ¾-length victory from runner-up Shipsational and 10 other 3-year-olds. “We think it will be the right move. He ran great over the track, and it was such a great day of racing we’d like to enjoy it again.”

classic causeway

Classic Causeway and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., prepare to be led into the Tampa Bay Downs winner's circle on Saturday after their Grade III Sam F. Davis victory (courtesy SV Photography)

Shipsational’s trainer, Eddie Barker, said his colt is also being pointed to the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Shipsational remains at Tampa Bay Downs, where he has been in training since December.

Classic Causeway, who is owned by his breeders – Patrick O’Keefe’s Kentucky West Racing, LLC and Clarke M. Cooper – earned 10 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying points for his Sam F. Davis victory, moving him atop the standings with 16 points. Shipsational is 25th with 4 points earned Saturday.

The Kentucky Derby field is limited to 20 starters, with the standings through the April 16 Lexington Stakes used to determine the runners. The Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby offers points to the first four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale.

The Kentucky Derby is May 7 at Churchill Downs.

Lynch said he was most impressed by Classic Causeway’s ability to run comfortably down the backstretch of the mile-and-a-sixteenth Sam F. Davis despite being pressured from the outside by long shot Little Vic. After a 22.66-second opening quarter-mile, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., got Classic Causeway to relax somewhat through a second quarter in 24.01, enabling him to draw off from the field on the turn for home.

Classic Causeway’s final time was 1:42.80, .36 seconds off the stakes mark set by Flameaway in 2018.

Classic Causeway, who was Grade I and Grade II-placed as a 2-year-old, raced professionally throughout, seeming to be energized by the early challenge from Little Vic. “He is a very /competitive horse who loves what he does,” Lynch said. “We are happy to have him on our team and not have to play against him.”

Shipsational, a two-time stakes winner in restricted New York-bred stakes last year, proved his worth under jockey Javier Castellano by surging past eventual third-place finisher Volcanic in deep stretch.

“I loved the way (Shipsational) finished,” Barker said this morning. “He came out of the race absolutely super, he dove into his feed tub and he’s been bouncing around. I think he is a horse who is going to keep on developing, and hopefully when the Tampa Bay Derby gets here we’ll be ready to go.”

Shipsational is owned by Iris Smith Stable, LLC.

Turf Dash, Lighting City Stakes on tap. Saturday is “Turf Sprint Showcase Day,” highlighted by a pair of $100,000, 5-furlong events on the turf course: the Turf Dash for horses 4-years-old-and-upward and the Lightning City Stakes for fillies and mares 4-and-upward.

Nominations for both races closed Feb. 5, with 32 horses nominated for the Turf Dash and 31 for the Lightning City. The purse money for both races includes $25,000 in Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association stakes funds for registered Florida-breds.

Around the oval. No bettor hit the Super High-5 in the ninth race, creating a carryover into Wednesday’s card of $18,138.

Trainer Todd Pletcher’s 3-year-old filly Nest picked up 10 “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” qualifying points for her victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Suncoast Stakes to vault into second place in the standings that will be used to determine the Kentucky Oaks field on May 6.

Nest, who set a stakes record of 1:39.30 for the mile-and-40-yard distance, has 20 points, trailing only unbeaten (4-for-4) Echo Zulu with 30 points in the standings. Echo Zulu, who has yet to race this year, concluded her 2-year-old campaign on Nov. 5 at Del Mar with a victory in the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Nest, who won the Suncoast by 6 lengths, was ridden by Ortiz.

Trainer Arnaud Delacour saddled two winners today, both on the turf. Delacour won the 5th race, a mile-and-three-eighths maiden special weight contest, with McLovin, a 4-year-old colt owned by Team Valor International and ridden by Daniel Centeno. Delacour added the seventh race, the Cody’s Original Roadhouse Race of the Week, with Huntress Moon, a 4-year-old filly owned by Lael Stables and ridden by Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr.

Centeno rode his second winner in the ninth race on the turf, scoring on 4-year-old gelding Cochise Charlie for owner Wayne Spalding and trainer Tim Glyshaw.

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.