Grade 2 winner Catholic Boy faces six rivals on Saturday while making his three-year-old bow in the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.
The 1 1/16-mile contest is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of points races. It’s worth a total of 17 points, with 10-4-2-1 awarded to the respective top four finishers.
Catholic Boy made his debut on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard in December, taking his main track debut in the Remsen Stakes (G2) by 4 3/4 lengths. He earned 10 points toward a starting berth in the May 5 Kentucky Derby (G1) and currently sits in 11th on the Leaderboard.
Prior to the Remsen, Catholic Boy competed on turf, breaking his maiden for trainer Jonathan Thomas by two lengths at Gulfstream Park last July and capturing the With Anticipation Stakes (G3) by a length on August 30 at Saratoga.
The More Than Ready colt suffered his first career loss when fourth, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar on November 3, but closed his juvenile campaign on a winning note in the Remsen. Manuel Franco has been aboard for Catholic Boy’s last three starts and retains the mount Saturday.
The Kentucky-bred colt will see a familiar face in the Sam F. Davis, as Remsen third-placer Vouch also lines up at Tampa Bay Downs. The Arnaud Delacour trainee wired his maiden debut by 8 1/4 lengths at Laurel Park on October 30 and faced winners for the first time in the Remsen. He was beaten only three parts of a length for second, and gets new jockey Daniel Centeno in the pilot’s seat here.
Hollywood Star also took part in the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, but trainer Dale Romans saddled the Malibu Moon colt in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) instead of its turf counterpart. The dark bay finished sixth that day, which followed a pair of runner-up efforts in Churchill Downs’ Iroquois Stakes (G3) on September 16 and the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) in mid-August at the Spa. Hollywood Star scored in his maiden bow at Churchill and keeps Joel Rosario in the irons for another try at graded rivals.
Flameaway is the only other runner in this field with prior stakes experience. The chestnut son of Scat Daddy has bounced back and forth between surfaces, breaking his maiden on the synthetic Tapeta at Woodbine and taking the off-the-turf Skidmore Stakes over a muddy, sealed main track at Saratoga. The Mark Casse pupil then finished sixth in the Iroquois over Churchill’s dirt and switched to a sloppy, sealed main track at Keeneland to take the off-the-turf Bourbon Stakes (G3).
The Ontario-bred colt finally got the opportunity to run on grass in his past pair, finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and capturing the Kitten’s Joy Stakes while making his sophomore debut on January 6 at Gulfstream Park. Jose Lezcano has the call Saturday.
Vino Rosso and Septimius Severus each took their maiden debuts, but the former went on to remain perfect in two starts by scoring in an allowance/optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs while the latter finished second in a similar contest at Gulfstream. John Velazquez stays in the saddle on the Todd Pletcher-trained Vino Rosso, while conditioner George Weaver has tabbed Jose Ortiz to ride Septimius Severus.
Maiden Navy Armed Guard rounds out the Sam F. Davis field having made five starts thus far. The Joan Scott charge recorded his best finish to date when a neck second on January 14 in a Tampa Bay Downs’ allowance/optional claimer. Jesus Castanon holds the reins Saturday.