Saturday’s big day, officially known as Festival Preview Day, will be a triple slam for Tampa Bay Downs as it holds four stakes races three of which are graded stakes.
The Tampa Bay Stakes, the Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes are all Grade 3.
The Oldsmar track also will have the Suncoast stakes.
First post for the 12-race card is at 12:12 p.m.
The highlight is the Sam F. Davis, a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points scoring race.
We will be on site at Tampa Bay Downs and will have coverage on our blog during the afternoon.
The first stakes race on the program, race eight, is the Suncoast Stakes. It has a $100,000 purse and is for 3-year old fillies at 1 mile and 40 yards on the dirt. The scheduled post is at 3:45 p.m.
Nine horses are entered in this contest and morning-line odds favor Elate at 9-5 and R Angel Katelyn at 3-1.
R Angel Katelyn has won four of her five starts.
She has a three-race win streak—all in stakes and with the two most recent at Tampa Bay. Those races were the six-furlong Sandpiper and seven-furlong Gasparilla.
In both Tampa Bay wins, she earned a Brisnet speed figure of 91. That is the highest among Suncoast entrants.
The Suncoast will be R Angel Katelyn’s first race longer than seven furlongs. Her regular jockey Edwin Gonzalez has the mount for trainer Gerald Bennett.
Elate, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, comes into the Suncoast after several fast workouts and is 1-for-1 following a great maiden win on Nov. 26 at Aqueduct in New York.
Elate won by twelve lengths in a one-mile dirt race, in a nine-horse field. She earned a 90 Brisnet speed figure.
Jose Ortiz, who led North American jockeys in wins last year, will ride her.
Another horse that stands a good shot is Tapa Tapa Tapa, if she can adjust in her first race on dirt. She has won two of her five starts. Two of her losses were sixth and seventh place finishes in graded turf stakes.
Venus Serena broke her maiden on Jan. 18 at Tampa Bay, winning by four lengths at the Suncoast distance. Her time was a fast 1:41.91. But she beat only five rivals, and the competition will be much tougher in the Suncoast.
Look for Venus Serena, Elate and Our Angel Katelyn to battle for the early lead.
Tampa Bay Stakes
The scheduled post for the ninth race, the Tampa Bay Stakes, is at 4:15 p.m. There are ten entrants in the $150,000 race at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
The race has a deep field, with no clear-cut favorite.
Hall of Fame trainer Claude (Shug) McGaughey has entered his 4-year-old graded stakes winner Inspector Lynley, who likely will be among horses gaining in the stretch.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Inspector Lynley, who is 4-1 in the morning line.
The 3-1 morning line favorite is Kasaqui. Last year, he won the 1 3/16 mile Arlington Handicap (Grade 3) and finished second in the 1 ¼ mile Arlington Million (Grade 1) at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. Robby Albarado will ride for trainer Ignacio Correas.
Others that should be considered as win contenders are Catapult, Kaigun and Coco Mon.
Sam F. Davis
The legendary trainer Todd Pletcher is going for his seventh Sam F. Davis victory since 2006.
The race has a $250,000 purse and is 1 1/16 miles on dirt for three-year-olds.
Pletcher’s entrants are the undefeated Fact Finding and Tapwrit, who has won two of three starts.
They are 9-2 and 8-1 respectively in the morning line. Velazquez will seek his fifth Sam F. Davis win with Fact Finding. Ortiz will ride Tapwrit.
McCraken, unbeaten in three starts, is the 2-1 morning line favorite. It will be his first race since Nov. 26, when he won the 1 1/16 mile Kentucky Jockey Cup (Grade 2) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
McCraken is under the care of trainer Ian Wilkes and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who teamed up to win the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Fort Larned.
No Dozing is 4-1 in the morning line. He finished second in the 1 1/8 mile Remsen (Grade 2) at Aqueduct on Nov. 26.
He is under the care of jockey Daniel Centeno, who leads Tampa Bay in wins, and trainer Arnaud Delacour.
Wild Shot, runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Cup, and Fact Finding are among horses that likely will seek the early lead.
The Sam F. Davis winner will get 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby that will be run May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The second through fourth finishers will get four, two and one points respectively.
Qualifying points will increase for the next round of prep races, including the 1 1/16 mile Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) on March 11. For that race the points are 50-20-10-5 for first through fourth.
Last year, the cutoff was 31 points for gaining a spot in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.
Three Sam F. Davis entrants have qualifying points. McCraken has 10 points and is in11th place. Wild Shot has six points and is in 15th place, while No Dozing has five points and is in 17th place.
Lambholm South Endeavor
The final stakes on the program is the eleventh race, with a purse of $150,000. It will be 1 1/16 miles on the turf, and the scheduled post is at 5:15 pm.
Velazquez will ride Isabella Sings, the morning-line odds currently at 5-2. This Todd Pletcher trainee could attempt to wire the field.
Lots o’ Lex, Light in Paris and Elysea’s World are other top win contenders.