The Sam F. Davis: Uncovering Hidden Gems in Derby Prep Races

Tampa Bay Downs Kickstarts the Kentucky Derby Trail with the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes

The Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs is an important stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby. While the winner usually grabs the spotlight, it’s often the horses outside the winner’s circle that go on to make a mark in the Triple Crown races. Let’s take a look at some past examples.

2019: Hidden Stash and Known Agenda

Last year, Candy Man Rocket won the Sam F. Davis Stakes in impressive fashion. However, when it came to the Kentucky Derby, he was nowhere to be found. Instead, it was the third-place finisher, Hidden Stash, and the fifth-place finisher, Known Agenda, who represented the race at Churchill Downs. Known Agenda went on to win the Florida Derby but struggled in the Kentucky Derby, finishing ninth. Hidden Stash also had a disappointing run, finishing 13th.

2018: Flameaway, Catholic Boy, and Vino Rosso

In 2018, Flameaway captured the Sam F. Davis Stakes with his front-running style. While he didn’t fare well in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 13th, it was the runner-up Catholic Boy and the third-place finisher Vino Rosso who made a significant impact on the Triple Crown trail. Catholic Boy went on to win the Belmont Invitational and the Travers Stakes, while Vino Rosso claimed victory in the Wood Memorial and later secured three wins as a 4-year-old, including the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Pay Attention to Every Contender

The history of the Sam F. Davis Stakes shows that no horse from this race has ever gone on to win the Kentucky Derby in its 42-year existence. Therefore, it’s crucial to pay attention to all the contenders, especially those who don’t make it to the winner’s circle. This race serves as a stepping stone for many horses looking to reach higher levels in their careers.

Front-Running Strategy Favored in the Sam F. Davis Stakes

Front-running tactics have been successful in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, with the majority of recent winners either leading or closely tracking the pace throughout the race. However, 2020’s Sole Volante proved to be an exception by staging a remarkable come-from-behind victory, rallying from 15 ½ lengths back to win by a half-length.

Classic Causeway: The Morning-Line Favorite

Heading into this year’s Sam F. Davis Stakes, the 3/1 morning-line favorite is Classic Causeway. Bred from Giant Causeway’s final crop, Classic Causeway has consistently performed well in his races. He broke his maiden impressively at Saratoga and followed it up with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. In his latest start, he finished as a runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Classic Causeway’s ability to stay near the lead positions him as a strong contender in the Davis.

Other Contenders to Watch

While Classic Causeway takes the spotlight, there are other contenders worth keeping an eye on in this talented field:

Make It Big: Springboard Mile Winner

Make It Big, the Springboard Mile winner, enters the Sam F. Davis Stakes as a horse to watch. With two stakes victories under his belt, Make It Big displayed grit and determination in a thrilling stretch duel at Remington Park. Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. acknowledges the tough competition in this race but is eager to see how his colt stacks up against this talented field.

Howling Time: A Front-Runner in the Making

Another intriguing contender for the Davis is Howling Time, the 5/1 second choice. After two victories as a juvenile, he stumbled to a fifth-place finish at Churchill Downs. Trainer Dale Romans believes that Howling Time performs best when he can utilize his front-running speed. In a race where being near the lead is advantageous, Howling Time could find himself at the forefront of the pack.


The Sam F. Davis Stakes is a crucial race on the Kentucky Derby trail, offering a glimpse into the potential contenders for the upcoming Triple Crown races. While the winner may earn immediate recognition, history has shown that it’s essential to pay attention to all participants, as past events have seen horses outside the winner’s circle making a significant impact in subsequent races. Classic Causeway, Make It Big, and Howling Time are just a few of the talented colts seeking their moment of glory in this highly anticipated race.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Q: Has any horse from the Sam F. Davis Stakes ever won the Kentucky Derby?

A: No, no horse from the Sam F. Davis Stakes has ever won the Kentucky Derby.

2. Q: What is the typical racing style of winners in the Sam F. Davis Stakes?

A: The front-running style has been successful in the majority of recent Sam F. Davis Stakes winners.

3. Q: Which horse stands out as the favorite in this year’s Sam F. Davis Stakes?

A: Classic Causeway enters the race as the morning-line favorite at 3/1 odds.

4. Q: Are there any notable contenders apart from Classic Causeway?

A: Yes, Make It Big, the Springboard Mile winner, and Howling Time, a strong front-runner, are among the horses to watch in this talented field.

5. Q: What does history teach us about the significance of the Sam F. Davis Stakes?

A: While winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes is prestigious, the race serves as a valuable stepping stone for horses aiming for higher levels in their careers, such as the Triple Crown races.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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