$250,000 Sam F. Davis Heads Festival Preview Program
Thursday, February 6, 2020

    OLDSMAR - Unbeaten Independence Hall drew the No. 4 post position for Saturday’s Gr. III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, the centerpiece of Festival Preview Day 40 at Tampa Bay Downs. Eight 3-year-olds are entered in the Sam F. Davis, a mile-and-a-sixteenth race on the main track. It 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, and is scheduled as the 11th race on a 12-race card.

    Post time for the first race 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 Gr. 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 maker from listing him at 6-5.
Ortiz will be aboard.

   In horse racing, there are a lot of circumstances that can come into play,” said trainer Michael Trombetta. “You have a lot of horses testing the waters 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 Gr. III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes, a mile-and-a-sixteenth event on the turf for fillies and mares 4-and-upward, is the eighth race. It features a standout in 5-year-old Got Stormy, a multiple Gr. I stakes-winner who was a finalist for the 2019 Eclipse Award in the Turf Female category. She will break from the No. 7 post position in an eight-horse field. Got Stormy 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 Gr. III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes, at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf for horses 4-years-old-and-upward, is slated as the 10th race. The nine-horse field is headed by Halladay, trained by Todd Pletcher with Velazquez in the saddle, and Caribou Club, trained by Tom Proctor and to be ridden by Ortiz.

    The remaining stakes is the $150,000 Suncoast for 3-year-old fillies going a mile-and-40-yards on the main track. It goes as the ninth race, and is a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” qualifying race, awarding points on a 10-4-2-1 scale. The favorite is likely to be Florida-bred Two Sixty, who won the 7-furlong Gasparilla Stakes 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 Gr. III Schuylerville last summer at Saratoga and has two Gr. I placings. Rosario will be aboard.

    Independence Hall breezed 4 furlongs Sunday in 48 3/5 seconds, and despite his sterling credentials and the impressive appearance he has made 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 with Ocean Knight, is sending his colt Ajaaweed, a Shadwell Stable-owned homebred who finished a fast-closing second in the Gr. II Remsen Stakes on Dec. 7 at Aqueduct. That race was a mile-and-an-eighth, 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.

    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,” the trainer 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.” 

The field for the Sam F. Davis Stakes in post position order:

1.  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.

The Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes:

1.  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.

The entries for the Tampa Bay Stakes:

1.  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.

The field for the Suncoast Stakes:

1. 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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