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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Mike Henry, Tampa Bay Downs — Rattle N Roll, who won the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity on Oct. 9 at Keeneland in his most recent start, and Make It Big, whose 3-for-3 record includes two stakes victories, head a list of 48 nominations for the 42nd renewal of the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Feb. 12 Festival Preview Day card at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Sam F. Davis Stakes, contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main dirt track, is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, with the top four finishers receiving points on a 10-4-2-1 scale toward qualifying for a spot in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 7. The Sam F. Davis is also a precursor to the Grade 2, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race awarding 50, 20, 10 and 5 points to the first four finishers.

Three other stakes are scheduled on the Festival Preview Day card. They include the $150,000, mile-and-40-yard Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, which is a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points race; the $100,000, 6-furlong Pelican Stakes, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward; and the $50,000, 6-furlong Minaret Stakes, for fillies and mares 4-and-upward.

The list of Sam F. Davis nominations includes eight from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the race a record six times, most recently with Destin in 2016. Heading the list of Pletcher-trained candidates is Mo Donegal, who won the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes on Dec. 4 at Aqueduct, and Emmanuel, who won Sunday’s sixth race impressively at Tampa.

Rattle N Roll, a Kentucky-bred colt owned by the Mackin family’s Lucky Seven Stable and trained by Ken McPeek, won the 1 1/16-mile Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity by a widening 4 ¼ lengths under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. After targeting a start in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at Del Mar, McPeek changed course after the horse developed a minor foot issue.

Rattle N Roll returned to the workout tab earlier this month at Gulfstream Park and breezed three furlongs Saturday in 35.67 seconds.

Make It Big, owned by Red Oak Stable and trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., won the Ocala Stud Juvenile Sprint Stakes on Oct. 30 at Gulfstream and the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes on Dec. 17 at Remington Park in his last two starts. Jose Ortiz was aboard for the most recent victory.

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