Full marks to Flameaway, but he may not be the best prospect from this race

Flameaway holds off Catholic Boy in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. Photo: SV Photography

Todd Pletcher has saddled the winner of the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs six times since 2006. While he didn’t manage to improve that record on Saturday, he may have produced the horse with the most potential on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, argues James Willoughby.



Episode 8: Sam F. Davis Stakes (February 10, Tampa Bay Downs, Grade 3, 8.5f)

Winner: Flameaway
Jockey: Jose Lezcano (TRC Global Rank #112)
Owner: John C Oxley (#20)
Trainer: Mark Casse (#12)
Sire: Scat Daddy (#6)

Result: click here

Flameaway – with TRC Global Rankings Top 20 Owner, Trainer and Sire in his corner – proved much better on his second try against Graded foes on dirt. But he did not do enough to suggest a classic is in his future.

The son of Scat Daddy was only sixth in the G3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs last September on his last try at the big time on this surface, since when he had been switched to grass with seemingly good effect. He had won the G3 Bourbon at Keeneland before a really good eighth to Mendelssohn in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, in which he had pressed a fast pace from a wide draw and yielded late, beaten only three and a half lengths.

This time everything went for him. He broke sharply and led through an opening quarter that failed to better 24 seconds. This gave him a clear advantage over the rest, but when favoured Catholic Boy loomed up on the turn, it appeared as if he might be treated the same way Avery Island was in the G2 Remsen at Aqueduct in December. (That horse made Catholic Boy look even better when winning the G3 Withers next up.)

Not this time. With the advantage of the rail, Flameaway battled hard and turned the runner-up away, while the pair were both closed down on by third-placed Vino Rosso, a good-looking son of Curlin trained by Todd Pletcher who had greatly impressed in an allowance race at the track. (See video below.)

Vino Rosso was outpaced approaching the home turn, looking somewhat inexperienced. As a result, he could not follow the leaders up the rail and had to be switched. He kept trying, however, and was gaining fast at the line.

Vino Rosso has more scope for improvement than Flameaway, especially for longer distances and granted a faster pace. He is arguably a better prospect than the winner and the one to take out of this race.

Even though the time of 1:42.44 was a stakes record, the track was playing extremely fast. But, if the time wasn’t sharp, neither was Vino Rosso. Yet.

Previously in this series

1. Sham Stakes (McKinzie)
2. Lecomte (Instilled Regard)
3. Jerome (Firenze Fire)
4. Smarty Jones (Mourinho)
5. Holy Bull (Audible)
6. Withers (Avery Island)
7. Robert B Lewis (Lombo)

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