TAMPA, FL – John C. Oxley’s Flameaway burned the brightest amongst a solid field, wiring five other 3-year-olds in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Breaking briskly from post 2 under Jose Lezcano, Flameaway took command early and set a pressured pace through slow splits of :24.18, 47.73, and 1:11.25. Hitting the top of the stretch with the favored Catholic Boy tight to his hip, Flameaway dug in gamely and held off his graded stakes-winning foe to win by a 1/2-length in a stakes-record final time of 1:42.44 for the 1 1/16-mile main track event.
“He is a very nice horse who I think is improving with every race,” Lezcano said. “He’s very quiet, not hyper at all, and he gives you what you ask for. I think he will be a nice horse in the future.”
Due to his resume, Catholic Boy was the high weight at 122 pounds, a factor that his trainer, Jonathan Thomas, felt played a big part.
“I really need to watch the race again, but I thought it was a big effort giving 6 pounds,” Thomas said. “I’m happy because it was a good effort. I just need to see it again and digest the race.”
Vino Rosso was well-positioned but couldn’t get a jump on the top pair and took third, 8 1/2 lengths in front of Hollywood Star. The finishing order included Navy Armed Guard and Septimius Severus.
The Sam F. Davis is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Flameaway earned 10 points for the win, with Catholic Boy receiving 4 for second, Vino Rosso 2 for third, and Hollywood Star 1 for fourth.
Flameaway’s win was his first over a fast dirt track after winning the off-turf G3 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes in the slop. The Mark Casse-trained son of Scat Daddy improved his record to 7-5-0-0 with career earnings of $434,834.
“He’s a fighter,” Casse said. “If you’ve ever watched him, you’ve seen that. With the track playing a little fast today, I told Jose he was going to like this track. The one thing about him is, if he gets in a battle, he’s going to win the battle. As long as the track is fairly firm, I think he’ll run on anything. I was kind of wishy-washy about trying him on dirt, and Mr. Oxley said, ‘Can we do it one more time?’ He is the boss, so I said ‘Of course.’”
Flameaway returned $22.60 to win, $5.40 to place, and $3.20 to show. Catholic Boy brought back $2.60 to place and $2.10 to show, while Vino Rosso paid $2.80 to show.