Classic Causeway dominates the Sam F. Davis
Classic Causeway, impressive winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) Feb. 12, heads the nominations for the 42nd running of the $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) for 3-year-olds March 12.
The Tampa Bay Downs Derby, contested at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, is part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series” of races for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), scheduled for May 7 at Churchill Downs. The Tampa Bay Derby awards qualifying points to the first four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
Classic Causeway, a Kentucky-bred colt who is owned by Kentucky West Racing and Clarke M. Cooper and trained by Brian Lynch, is sixth in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” standings through Saturday’s prep action with 16 points. He was ridden to victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, completing the trip in 1:42.80, the fifth-fastest running of the race in its 42-year history.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Tampa Bay Derby a record five times, including three in a row from 2015-2017, appears to have covered all bases, with 13 nominees. That contingent includes Grade 3 winner Mo Donegal, owned by Donegal Racing; Grade 3 winner Major General, owned by WinStar Farm and Siena Farm; the promising Emmanuel, who won an allowance/optional claiming race going a one mile and 40 yards on Jan. 30 in his 3-year-old debut also for WinStar Farm and Siena Farm; and Grade 3 turf winner Grand Sonata.
Also nominated is New York-bred colt Shipsational, who picked up four points for his Sam F. Davis Stakes runner-up finish. Shipsational, who has been training at Tampa Bay Downs since December, is owned by Iris Smith Stable and trained by Edward Barker.
Besides Classic Causeway, five other horses who are among the current top 20 on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points list are nominated to the Tampa Bay Derby. That group includes Smile Happy, who is third in the standings with 30 points but is ranked first or second on many experts’ list of top Kentucky Derby contenders. Ken McPeek trains the Grade 2-winning colt for owner Lucky Seven Stable.
The other nominees among the top 20 points leaders are Mo Donegal, Grade 1 winner Rattle N Roll, Major General, and Dash Attack.
Other Sam F. Davis runners are nominated, including third-place finisher Volcanic and fifth-place finisher Golden Glider, both trained by Mark Casse, and fourth-place finisher Strike Hard, trained by Matthew J. Williams.
Four other stakes are scheduled on the March 12 Festival Day card, three graded, with total stakes purses of $1 million: the $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes (G2) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the turf; the $200,000 Florida Oaks (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the turf; the $100,000 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes (G3) for 4-year-olds and older going 1 1/16 miles on the main track; and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf.