Brian Lynch was looking for confirmation Saturday that Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Classic Causeway was feeling as good as he looks.
The 3-year-old colt provided it in abundance, breezing 5 furlongs in 59.95 seconds at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach. Next stop: Tampa Bay Downs, where he will be a big favorite in Saturday’s Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.
“We’ve been fortunate to not miss a beat with him,” the trainer said this morning. “He has had two strong workouts (since the Sam F. Davis), and he is on schedule to go back to a track he really liked. We’re looking forward to getting back over there.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rode five winners on Sam F. Davis Day on Feb. 12, will again be aboard.
Classic Causeway, who is owned by Kentucky West Racing, LLC and Clarke M. Cooper, is expected to face at least 10 rivals, including Sam F. Davis runner-up Shipsational in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, which is a major points race on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.” The top four finishers will receive 50, 20, 10 and 5 points toward qualifying for the Run for the Roses on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
A huge crowd is expected for Saturday’s Festival Day 42 card, which includes four other stakes races, three of them graded. The lineup also consists of the Grade II, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward, at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf; the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf; the Grade III, $100,000 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes, for horses 4-and-upward at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track; and the $75,000 Columbia Stakes, for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf.
Entries for the full Festival Day 42 card will be drawn Wednesday in the Tampa Bay Downs Racing Office.
General-admission tickets are $15. Gates will open at 11 a.m. and first post time will be noon. As if great racing isn’t enough to attract fans, Tampa Bay Downs will give a “Mystery Mutuel Voucher” worth from $5-$1,000 to the first 5,000 through the gates, with paid admission.
If Classic Causeway runs as well as Lynch says he’s doing, you won’t want to be late to the party.
“He came out of the (Sam F. Davis) very well, he’s carrying good weight and he has great energy, so we’re counting our blessings,” Lynch said. “He seemed to really like the racetrack, so we thought the smart thing was to take him back over there and have a crack at the Tampa Bay Derby.”
Classic Causeway will bid to become the first horse since Destin in 2016 to win both of the Oldsmar oval’s Kentucky Derby prep races.
The field for the Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 horses, and Classic Causeway is currently 11th on the leaderboard with 16 points. Depending on Saturday’s outcome, Lynch said Classic Causeway could then return on April 9 in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland or go straight to the Kentucky Derby.
Classic Causeway is scheduled to arrive here Thursday.
His probable opponents will have something to say about his subsequent plans. They include Shipsational, a solid runner-up in the Sam F. Davis, trained by Edward Barker; conditioner Todd Pletcher’s Major General, expected to make his first start since winning the Grade III Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 18 at Churchill Downs; Golden Glider, fifth in the Sam F. Davis, trained by Mark Casse; and Midnight Chrome, third in the Grade II Remsen Stakes on Dec. 4 at Aqueduct, trained by J. Tyler Servis.
Other likely participants include trainer H. Graham Motion’s Belgrade, 2-for-2 after an allowance/optional claiming victory here on Feb. 19; Happy Boy Rocket, trained by Bill Mott; Victoria Oliver’s Trademark; Spin Wheel, trained by George “Rusty” Arnold, II; Grantham, trained by Michael Maker; and The Skipper Too, trained by Juan Alvarado.
The Hillsborough Stakes could feature a rematch between two outstanding 4-year-old fillies: trainer Chad Brown’s unbeaten (4-for-4) Bleecker Street, who won the Grade III Endeavour Stakes here on Feb. 5, and Lady Speightspeare, the Endeavour runner-up, who is trained by Roger Attfield.
Brown, who has won the Hillsborough four times, is also expected to send 5-year-old German-bred mare Kalifornia Queen, third by a half-length on Oct. 17 in the Grade I E. P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine.
Others expected to compete are trainer Michael Wright’s Nantucket Red, winner of the Wayward Lass Stakes on the dirt here on Jan. 15 and sixth in the Endeavour; Christopher Davis’s Jezebel’s Kitten, a fast-closing fourth in the Endeavour; Lynch’s Take Charge Ro, 8-for-10 in-the-money lifetime, with three victories; stakes winner Runaway Rumour, trained by Jorge Abreu; and trainer Tom Albertrani’s Lovely Lucky.
The Florida Oaks promises to be a wide-open affair, with a potential-laden cast of 3-year-old fillies seeking to take the next step toward stardom. Trainer Mark Casse plans to enter Grade III winner Mrs. Barbara.
H. Graham Motion is expected to start a pair of contenders: Ambitieuse, who was second in the Grade III Sweetest Chant Stakes on Feb. 5 at Gulfstream in her most recent effort, and Vergara, last seen winning the Tepin Stakes on Nov. 28 at Aqueduct.
Brown may also start two: recent impressive maiden winner Spicer and Dolce Zel, a French-bred who broke her maiden on Oct. 14 at Longchamp and has been working steadily at Payson Park Training Center in Indiantown for her U.S. debut.
Others likely to run are stakes winner Alittleloveandluck, owned and trained by Mike Dini; Roughly a Diamond, conditioned by Michelle Nihei; Hail To, from the barn of Albertrani; Princess Elin, conditioned by Alnaz Ali; Sweet Dutchess, trained by Kathleen O’Connell; and Libretto, trained by Abreu.
The Michelob Ultra Challenger is likely to include two horses from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, a four-time winner of the race: 4-year-old colt Dynamic One, a stakes winner who finished second in last year’s Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, and 5-year-old War Stopper.
The race could also feature trainer Victoria Oliver’s 4-year-old colt Hidden Stash, who has finished second and third in a pair of recent turf starts, his first efforts since competing in last year’s Kentucky Derby. Previous to that, Hidden Stash was third in the Sam F. Davis, second in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and fourth in the Toyota Blue Grass.
Another to watch is Militarist, who finished fourth in the Grade I Clark Stakes presented by Norton Healthcare on Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs. Carlo Vaccarezza trains Militarist.
Mike Henry, Tampa Bay Downs Press Release