Sam F. Davis Score Like Taking Candy From a Baby
Sunday, February 7, 2021
    OLDSMAR - For a few fleeting seconds nearing the turn for home in the Gr. III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, it appeared that pace-setter Boca Boy was about to pull away from his closest pursuer, Candy Man Rocket. But Junior Alvarado, the jockey on Candy Man Rocket, wanted to wait a little longer to launch his move.

    “I didn’t really want to engage the horse up front or make any quick move too early," Alvarado said. "I just ha d to move a little bit, keep holding my position and wait as long as I could. He doesn’t have a real quick turn of foot, but he started grinding it out so I started picking it up and I was really pleased by the quarter pole turning for home.

    Then, when he requested more, Candy Man Rocket delivered. “At the sixteenth pole when I switched my stick to the right hand and showed it to him to see what I had left, he put his head low and kept grinding his way there,” Alvarado said after posting a 1-length victory over stablemate Nova Rags, ridden by Samy Camacho.

    The Sam F. Davis was the centerpiece of a Festival Preview Day 41 Presented by Lambholm South card that set a Sam F. Davis Day handle record of $13,200,523, an increase of more than $2.1-million from last year. The total handle is the third largest in track history. Three other stakes were contested, including two graded races on the turf, with total stakes purse money of $750,000.

    Riley Mott, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and his father’s assistant, had a good feeling Candy Man Rocket was going to earn the $120,000 Sam F. Davis winner’s share when Alvarado turned him loose.

    “He got into a real nice comfort zone down the backside and Junior let him out a notch going to the 3/8-mile pole and at that point there wasn’t a whole lot coming from behind,” the younger Mott said. “He hit the front a little bit early, which was concerning – he’s still inexperienced and sometimes when they get to the front too early, they tend to wander – but Junior kept him to the task and he really ran on well and passed the two-turn test.”

    Mott also saddled runner-up Nova Rags, who won the Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 16. “He is a quality horse, and he sat a good trip too,” Mott said. “We weren’t sure about the two turns, so to see him come back and pass the two-turn test and run so well to a good horse and his stablemate was pretty encouraging.”

    Candy Man Rocket paid $8.20 as the second betting choice in the 12-horse field. His time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth on a fast track was 1:44.30. He won by a length, with Nova Rags and Camacho holding on for second by a neck from Hidden Stash. Boca Boy finished fourth. 

    Candy Man Rocket, a son of Candy Ride-Kenny Lane, by Forestry, is owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations. He is 2-for-3 in his career. The Sam F. Davis is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, with Candy Man Rocket taking away the top award of 10 points.

    The  1-2 finish by the Mott charges puts the Gr. II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby squarely in their sights, although Riley Mott said the March 6 race might come up a little quick for Nova Rags. Regardless, having options is what it’s all about for 3-year-olds at this stage of the year.

    In the Gr. III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for older horses on a firm turf surface, Get Smokin and Alvarado powered to the front in the stretch and lasted for a ¾-length victory from Eons. Admission Office finished third. The winner’s time was 1:40.75.

    Get Smokin, by Get Stormy out of Hookah Lady, by Smoke Glacken, is a 4-year-old gelding owned by the Mary Abeel Sullivan Revocable Trust and trained by Thomas M. Bush, who received a call from the owner immediately after the race. “She lives in Vero Beach and watched it on TV, and she is thrilled. She will be 92 on Monday and is very excited,” Bush said. “(He was ready today. Junior rode a beauty, for sure. Our horse was coming into it great. We gave him a little freshening after he ran in California, and he has really responded since he got to Florida. He’s been in the feed tub and we were really hoping he would run this race and he did.”

    Get Smokin paid $10 to win as the second choice in the 12-horse field.

    In the Gr. III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares, Klaravich Stables’ Counterparty Risk cut the corner turning for home under jockey John Velazquez and held firm for a 1-length victory from New York Girl. Tropical Racing's Margaret’s Joy rallied for third.

    The 4-year-old Ireland-bred winner, making only her fourth start, is trained by Chad Brown. Her time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass was 1:43.20. Counterparty Risk is by Australia, out of the Acclamation mare Anklet.

    The victory was the fourth on the card for Velazquez. The favorite, Counterparty Risk paid $3.80 for her second career victory.

    In the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Breeze Easy's Curlin’s Catch split horses turning for home and rolled to a 4 ½-length victory from Be Sneaky, with Il Malocchio gaining third. Curlin’s Catch completed the mile-and-40-yard distance on the main track in 1:40.89.

    Antonio Gallardo rode the winner for Breeze Easy and Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse. Curlin’s Catch improved to 2-for-4. The Suncoast is a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points race, and Casse suggested Curlin’s Catch will at least stay on that path for the foreseeable future. Curlin’s Catch paid $5.60 as the wagering favorite.

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