Unbeaten Independence Hall drew the No. 4 post position for Saturday's Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, the centerpiece of Festival Preview Day 40 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Eight 3-year-old Thoroughbreds are entered in the Sam F. Davis, a mile-and-a-sixteenth race on the main track. The Sam F. Davis is part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying series, with points awarded to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
The Sam F. Davis is scheduled as the 11th race on a 12-race card. Post time for the first race Saturday is 12:12 p.m. Several of the top jockeys in the country will be in Oldsmar for Festival Preview Day 40, including John Velazquez, Jose Ortiz, Joel Rosario, Julien Leparoux and Tyler Gaffalione.
Independence Hall, who won the Grade III Nashua on Nov. 3 at Aqueduct by 12 ¼ lengths and the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 1 by 4 lengths, will be racing around two turns for the first time in four career starts while carrying co-top weight of 122 pounds. Those factors didn't stop the morning-line handicapper from making him a 6-5 favorite.
Jose Ortiz will be in to ride Independence Hall.
“In horse racing, there are a lot of circumstances that can come into play,” said Michael Trombetta, the trainer of Independence Hall. “You have a lot of horses testing the waters (Saturday) to see how good they are, and all of us have the same goal: to see how far they can take us. We'd love to show up and run big and win the race, but the big picture is a little further down the line.”
Three other stakes races, two of which are graded, add luster to a lucrative Festival Preview Day card featuring total stakes purse money of $750,000.
The G3 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile event on the turf for fillies and mares four years old and up, is the eighth race. The Lambholm South Endeavour features a standout in 5-year-old mare Got Stormy, a multiple G1 stakes winner who was a finalist for the 2019 Eclipse Award in the Turf Female category.
Got Stormy will break from the No. 7 post position in an eight-horse field. Got Stormy, who is 8-for-18 lifetime with career earnings of $1,430,578, is trained by Mark Casse and will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.
The G3 Tampa Bay Stakes, at a distance of 1 1/16 miles on the turf for horses four and up, is slated as the 10th race. The nine-horse field is headed by No. 6 Halladay, trained by Todd Pletcher with Velazquez in the saddle, and No. 4 Caribou Club, trained by Tom Proctor and to be ridden by Jose Ortiz.
The remaining stakes is the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going a mile-and-40-yards on the main track. The Suncoast, which is the ninth race, is a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” qualifying race, awarding points on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
The betting favorite is likely to be Florida-bred Two Sixty, who won the 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes here by a neck on Jan. 18. Owned by Gary Barber and trained by Casse, Two Sixty will be ridden by Gaffalione. Top trainer Steve Asmussen has supplemented Comical to the race; she won the Grade III Schuylerville last summer at Saratoga and has two Grade I placings. Joel Rosario will be aboard.
Back to the Sam F. Davis and Independence Hall, who breezed 4 furlongs here Sunday in 48 3/5 seconds. Despite his sterling credentials and the impressive appearance he has made here since his arrival in Oldsmar a month ago, most, if not all, of the others will be trying to establish themselves as serious candidates for the next round of Kentucky Derby prep races by leaving Independence Hall on the statehouse steps.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who won the 2016 Sam F. Davis Stakes with Ocean Knight, is sending his colt Ajaaweed, a Shadwell Stable-owned homebred who finished a fast-closing second in the Grade II Remsen Stakes on Dec. 7 at Aqueduct. That race was a 1 1/8 miles, the second time he has raced around two turns.
Rosario will ride Ajaaweed, who has turned in a string of solid workouts at McLaughlin's Palm Meadows Training Center base in Boynton Beach, Fla., in preparation for the Sam F. Davis.
McLaughlin praised Ajaaweed's performance in the Remsen, in which he missed catching Shotski by a half-length despite racing wide on the final turn. “The race was on a track that had been favoring speed all day, and he was the only one who really closed,” McLaughlin said.
“He was unlucky not to win, but we were very pleased with his effort. He's doing very well and we're excited about getting his 3-year-old campaign started and taking the first step to the first Saturday in May, if he'll take us there,” McLaughlin said.
Here is the full field for the Sam F. Davis Stakes in post position order, along with the jockeys:
- Ajaaweed, Joel Rosario; 2. Sole Volante, Luca Panici; 3. Albert Park, Pablo Morales; 4. Independence Hall, Jose Ortiz; 5. No Getting Over Me, Samy Camacho; 6. Premier Star, John Velazquez; 7. Tiz Rye Time, Julien Leparoux; 8. Chapalu, Daniel Centeno.
Here are the horses for the Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes in post position order, along with the jockeys:
- A. A. Azula's Arch, Julien Leparoux; 2. Altea, Joel Rosario; 3. Jehozacat, Daniel Centeno; 4. Andina Del Sur, Jose Ortiz; 5. Dynatail, John Velazquez; 6. Kelsey's Cross, Luca Panici; 7. Got Stormy, Tyler Gaffalione; 8. Phantom Opening, Antonio Gallardo.
Here are the entries for the Tampa Bay Stakes in post position order, along with the jockeys:
- March to the Arch, Tyler Gaffalione; 2. Devamani, Joel Rosario; 3. Admiralty Pier, Samy Camacho; 4. Caribou Club, Jose Ortiz; 5. Renaisance Frolic, Antonio Gallardo; 6. Halladay, John Velazquez; 7. Hembree, Pablo Morales; 8. Real Story, Jesus Castanon; 9. My Bariley, to be announced.
Here is the field for the Suncoast Stakes in post position order, along with the jockeys:
- Lucrezia, Daniel Centeno; 2. We the Clouds, Angel Suarez; ; 3. Two Sixty, Tyler Gaffalione; 4. Motu, Jose Ortiz; 5. Comical, Joel Rosario; 6. Miss Important, Willie Martinez; 7. Blame Debbie, John Velazquez; 8. Turtle Trax, Julien Leparoux; 9. Embossed, Pablo Morales.
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