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TAMPA, FL – John Oxley’s Flameaway displayed a new level of toughness in Saturday’s Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, rebidding in midstretch to overcome a game Killybegs Captain and win for the first time since last year’s Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) here on February 10.
Breaking well from the rail under Jose Ortiz as the 3/2 favorite, Flameaway took the lead and posted opening fractions of :23.66 and :47.09 while Killybegs Captain kept close watch from second. The latter made his bid in the far turn and engaged the bettors’ choice along the outside, even putting his head in front as they hit the top of the stretch. Flameaway, however, refused to yield and dug in gamely, fighting back determinedly before edging his way back in front in the final yards. The Mark Casse trainee crossed with a 1/2-length advantage in a final time of 1:41.89 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the fast main track, a mark that was only 0.14 seconds off of the track record that Stanford set in the 2017 edition of this race.
“We broke really well and nobody challenged me until the backside, so I let him be there,” Ortiz said. “I think his heart is way bigger when he’s on the lead.”
Killybegs Captain was unable to topple the favorite for the second time, having upset Imperial Hint last out in the Pelican Stakes here on February 16. Bourbon Resolution was never within reach of the top pair but was able to take third over Reride. Completing the order of finish came Longden and Jay’s Way.
Flameaway’s win came in his second start of 2019, having finished a tiring third last out in the Mineshaft Handicap (G3) at Fair Grounds on February 16. The 4-year-old son of Scat Daddy, whom Oxley purchased for $400,000 as a juvenile, now sports a record of 15-6-3-1 with $909,834 earned.
“Somebody was saying this reminded them of the Sam F. Davis (when Flameaway defeated Catholic Boy by a half-length), and we’ve said all along he’s as game as he can be,” Casse said. “We’ve had some issues with him; he actually cracked a rib when we ran him at Parx (in the Smarty Jones (G3) in August), so we gave him a break, and he has come back good and strong.”
Flameaway returned $5 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.60 to show. Killybegs Captain brought back $4 to place and $2.80 to show, while Bourbon Resolution paid $2.60 to show.
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