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2022 Sam F. Davis Stakes Replay And Reaction | Classic Causeway Aces Kentucky Derby Prep
Credit: SV Photography

2022 Sam F. Davis Stakes Replay And Reaction | Classic Causeway Aces Kentucky Derby Prep

The Racing Dudes team reacts to Classic Causeway acing Saturday’s Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, then discuss who they like moving forward, including any potential longshots. Join our race replay watch-along for this Kentucky Derby (G1) prep! Tell us your thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

As well as Classic Causeway was training leading up to the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, trainer Brian Lynch still had cause for concern after his colt was pressed through an opening quarter-mile of 22.66 seconds by long-shot Little Vic.

“The fractions (including a half-mile of 46.67 seconds) had me a little bit worried,” Lynch said after Classic Causeway rolled to a 3 ¾-length victory from the late-running Shipsational, with Volcanic third and Strike Hard fourth in the 12-horse field.

“But his body language, the way his ears were twitching down the backside, gave me the feeling (jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.) had plenty of horse,” Lynch said.

Did he ever. Classic Causeway finished the 42nd edition of the mile-and-a-sixteenth “Road to the Kentucky Derby” contest with strong energy, competing the mile-and-a-sixteenth in 1:42.80 on the fast track, .36 seconds off Flameaway’s 2018 stakes record.

Classic Causeway paid $5.20 to win as the heavy betting favorite.

An on-track crowd of 4,443 contributed to a total all-sources handle figure of $12,129,778.12.

The 29-year-old Ortiz, regarded by many racing authorities as one of the world’s top-five jockeys, if not No. 1, won three of the four stakes races on the card and five races overall. Despite being pressured by Little Vic, Ortiz said Classic Causeway felt comfortable throughout.

“I was getting pushed by the speed horse, but my horse is fast, too,” Ortiz said. “He was traveling perfect and I didn’t want to take too much out of him and take him back too much.

“He broke good, so I just let him be free out there. I knew I had horse under me the whole time. Brian did a great job bringing him up to the race.”

Little Vic tired late, finishing seventh. Shipsational – who has been training at Tampa Bay Downs since December – ran on well to grab the runner-up spot.

“I like my horse and the way he did it,” said jockey Javier Castellano. “Today was the first time he had to come from way back, and he finished really well. I’m very satisfied with the way he ran and what he did today.”

Trainer Eddie Barker said the New York-bred Shipsational is likely to train up to the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12.

“I thought he ran giant,” Barker said. “There were a lot of question marks going in – whether he could get the distance, whether he could get two turns, and it was his first time going against open company. He was training like a real professional for the last five weeks.

“I’m staying right here for (the Tampa Bay Derby),” Barker said. “If we get lucky enough in there, then we’ve got enough points to go where we want. I think he’s the real deal – I am tickled pink.”

Today’s victory was the second in four starts for Classic Causeway, who finished third in the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and second in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club last fall. The Sam F. Davis was his first race in 11 weeks.

Owned by Patrick O’Keefe’s Kentucky West Racing and Clarke M. Cooper, Classic Causeway earned 10 points for the Sam F. Davis triumph, giving him 16 points toward qualifying for the May 7 Kentucky Derby. He earned $120,000 for the victory, raising his career bankroll to $301,100.

Lynch was noncommittal about Classic Causeway’s next start, but suggested the four weeks between the Sam F. Davis and the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby is manageable.

“He showed up today. We always thought he has obvious quality, and he took the step he needed to keep the dream alive,” Lynch said. “The way he won today, I don’t think he was taxed. He was geared down late, and I think he’ll really move forward off this race.”

Classic Causeway is a son of Giant’s Causeway out of the Thunder Gulch mare Private World, breeding that should enable him to thrive at distances beyond the Sam F. Davis route.