OLDSMAR – World Approval had already established himself as a heavyweight champion before his victory in the Gr. III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. But trainer Mark Casse learned he has a 3-year-old in his barn who can trade punches with some of the best of his age group.
“He’s a fighter,” Casse said after his 3-year-old colt Flameaway fought back in deep stretch under jockey Jose Lezcano to defeat 7-10 favorite Catholic Boy by a half-length in the Gr. III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race. “If you’ve ever watched him, you’ve seen that.
Flameaway, an Ontario-bred son of Scat Daddy-Vulcan Rose, by Fusaichi Pegasus, completed the mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track in 1:42.44 to establish a stakes record, .01 seconds faster than McCraken’s winning time last year.
Flameaway, who improved to 5-for-7 lifetime, is owned by John C. Oxley. He paid $22.60 to win. Vino Rosso rallied for third, three-quarters of a length behind Catholic Boy, with Hollywood Star fourth.
The Sam F. Davis was the highlight of an outstanding Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South afternoon of action that saw the 2017 Champion Turf Male, 6-year-old World Approval, hold on for a half-length victory over Forge in the Tampa Bay Stakes.
John Velazquez was aboard the gelding, owner/breeder Charlotte Weber’s pride and joy who has four consecutive victories and could be headed to Dubai for a $6-million race next month. World Approval paid $2.40 to win while racing the mile-and-a-sixteenth on grass in 1:40.66.
In the Sam F. Davis, Catholic Boy, under jockey Manuel Franco, stuck his head in front at the 1/8-mile pole, but Flameaway dug in on the rail and persevered for the victory.
Flameaway broke his maiden as a 2-year-old on the all-weather surface at Woodbine, won the Skidmore at Saratoga on a sloppy track, captured the Gr. III Dixiana Bourbon at Keeneland on a sloppy track in a race taken off the turf and won the Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream in his 3-year-old debut on the turf.
“I told Jose he was going to like this track,” Casse said. “As long as the track is fairly firm, I think he’ll run on anything. I would say there is a good chance (to return for the Gr. II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 10), but it’s something I have to talk to Mr. Oxley about.
A crowd of 5,147 got what they came to see in World Approval, the Eclipse winner who is now 3-for-3 over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.
World Approval improved to 12-2-4 in 25 lifetime starts and the winner’s share of $115,000 raised his career earnings to $3,052,363. He's the biggest money-earner for his dam, Win Approval, who has also produced millionaires Miesque's Approval ($2,648,879), Revved Up ($1,548,653) and Za Approval ($1,904,666).
Total all-sources wagering handle was $9,504,283.45, making it the second-highest Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South betting card in track history.