Flameaway turned back the stretch challenge of 3-5 favorite Catholic Boy to record a gutsy wire-to-wire upset in Saturday’s $200,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, scoring at 10-1 in the Kentucky Derby qualifier. Owned by John C. Oxley and trained by Mark Casse, Flameaway was the only member of the six-horse field not nominated to the Triple Crown but connections can still make him eligible for a $6,000 late fee by March 19.
With Jose Lezcano picking up the mount, the Scat Daddy colt sped to the lead from post 2 and logged early splits in :24.18, :47.73 and 1:11.25 on a short lead. Catholic Boy loomed a serious threat rallying to even terms in upper stretch and fought determinedly all the way to wire, but Flameaway kept finding more along the inside and prevailed by a half-length.
Winner of the grassy Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream Park in his previous outing, Flameaway notched his fourth overall stakes tally when completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.44.
Vino Rosso stalked the pace in fourth along the backstretch and appeared to be laboring midway along the far turn, but 2-1 second choice kicked it in late and nearly erased a sizable deficit to miss by 1 ¼ lengths, galloping out well past the top two finishers after the wire. The Todd Pletcher-trained Culin colt was making only his third career start and could be the one to take away from the Davis.
As one of the final early season preps in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Davis awarded points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
It was an 8 ½-length gap from Vino Rosso back to 5-1 third choice Hollywood Star in fourth. Navy Armed Guard and Septimius Severus came next under the wire and Vouch was scratched.
Flameaway had run well on turf, slop and synthetics but his only previous effort on a fast track was a disappointing sixth in the Iroquois (G3) last September. The chestnut Ontario-bred continued to show his versatility under fast conditions in the Davis and has now earned $434,834 from a 7-5-0-0 scorecard.
A $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August yearling purchase, Flameaway won his career debut on Woodbine’s Tapeta and captured the off-the-turf Skidway over a sloppy Saratoga main track in his second career outing. After the aforementioned Iroquois, he caught another sloppy track in the off-the-turf Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland and prevailed by a nose in a three-horse photo.
He concluded 2017 with an eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and opened his sophomore season with a wire-to-wire tally in the 7 ½-furlong Kitten’s Joy, holding on by a neck at 5-2 odds.
Bred by Phoenix Rising Farms, Flameaway hails from a turf-oriented pedigree. Out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Vulcan Rose, the speedy colt counts the Canadian-bred stakes-winning filly Ellan Vannin as a half-sister and prominent relatives include English and Irish classic winner Salsabil.