Sam F. Davis Stakes Predictions, Odds, Picks (Tampa Bay Downs)

Post Position and Odds – Sam F. Davis Stakes

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PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
R Maragh P Biancone
A Quinonez A Ali
I Ortiz Jr B Lynch
A Gallardo M Casse
5 GOD OF LOVE 10/1
R Hernandez M Casse
D Centeno V Oliver
J Ortiz S Joseph Jr
J Castellano E Barker
J Talamo D Romans
10 VOLCANIC 15/1
E Gonzalez M Casse
L Reyes M Williams
M Franco J Thomas
13 LITTLE VIC – AE 15/1
P Lopez J Avila

Best Bets for the Sam F. Davis Stakes

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

$10 Exacta Part Wheel – Classic Causeway over Make It Big, Howling Time, Trademark and Kitten Mischief = $40

$5 Exacta Box Part Wheel – Make It Big, Howling Time, Trademark and Kitten Mischief over Classic Causeway = $20

If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick Classic Causeway (3/1).

Sam F. Davis Stakes Predictions

Second last time to the highly regarded and unbeaten Smile Happy in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, Classic Causeway will look to begin his three-year-old season with his first stakes victory when he tops a deep lineup in Saturday’s $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

A son of Giant’s Causeway, Classic Causeway was an impressive winner of his career debut at Saratoga in September. Two subsequent starts came in graded stakes when he finished third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, and runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Trained by Brian Lynch, he finished one spot ahead of recent sharp Holy Bull Stakes winner White Abarrio in that last effort at Churchill Downs.

Another coming out of the Kentucky Jockey Club is the Dale Romans-trained Howling Time. He faded to fifth in that strong field, but before that was perfect in two starts at Churchill Downs. The son of Not This Time broke his maiden nicely in his debut, going 6 furlongs, and followed that up with an impressive victory in the Street Sense Stakes.

Make It Big also figures to get plenty of support in this 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby qualifying points race. Trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., the son of Neolithic is perfect in three career starts. Two easy wins sprinting at Gulfstream Park preceded a trip out to Oklahoma, where he won the $400,000 Remington Springboard Mile Stakes in December.

Sam F. Davis Stakes Predictions

Classic Causeway

The morning line favorite looks primed to earn his first graded stakes victory. After showing some real talent in running away from his competition in a maiden sprint at Saratoga, he found two very difficult spots for his next two. Armed with unfortunate post positions against big fields in each, he still showed very well of himself while running third to the talented Rattle N Roll in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and then second to the highly regarded Smile Happy in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. With no monsters in this one, he looks to have found a much more winnable spot this time around, while not drawn to the rail or the far outside post. With Irad Ortiz, Jr. coming back to ride, I like his chances in the Sam F. Davis. He is the top pick.

Make It Big

Clearly this one did nothing wrong in three starts as a juvenile. Moving up in class each time, he won a Florida-bred maiden race and then a state-bred stakes race, both at 7 furlongs and at Gulfstream Park, to begin his career for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. He then took his show on the road to earn a hard-fought victory in the rich Springboard Mile at Remington Park. Back in Florida, he will once again face his stiffest challenge yet in this one. He has already shown the ability to pass horses and I see it as a good sign that top rider Jose Ortiz will once again be in the saddle. I like the favorite the best, but this is one of his main threats.

Howling Time

This son of Not This Time looked like a real prospect while winning his first two career races nicely. Unfortunately, he was not able to fulfill early expectations when he tired to finish fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Still, that was a talented and deep field, and he could move forward off the effort. One of many in here with some speed, he’ll likely look to find a comfortable position early in which to track the front runners. Already a stakes winner at the distance, he fits with this group and will just need to show that he can improve a little bit off that last performance. Trained by Dale Romans, he is a contender on Saturday.

Strike Hard

This one’s second-place finishes to Simplification in the Mucho Macho Man and to White Abarrio in a previous allowance race were flattered when that pair came back to get the first two spots in the recent Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. He also has a good looking allowance victory in between those two performances. With good tactical speed, he could sit a good stalking trip in this 8 ½ furlong affair. While he has kept good company, he was not really threatening either Simplification or White Abarrio in those runner-up finishes. One of many in here with a shot, I like too many others in here to be overly excited about his chances.

God of Love

The first of three from Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse, this Canadian-bred son of Cupid will be making his first career start on dirt on Saturday in the Sam. F. Davis. The good news is that he is already a stakes winner on both turf and synthetic surfaces. All of his starts to date have come at Woodbine, where he is 2-for-4 lifetime. Proven at the distance, he has no real early speed and likes to come with a big late run. There is speed in here, which should give him a shot, but coming from other surfaces against questionable competition, I am going to have to see him beat me before I am ready to pick him in a graded stakes race on the dirt.


The two-time stakes winner has proven to be a nice New York-bred with three wins from four career starts. Last time he stretched out to a mile to win the Sleepy Hollow in the slop at Belmont Park against fellow state-breds. There are some things to like here, as the son of Midshipman should be fine with another small bump up in distance, and he has been working well over the Tampa Bay Downs strip. The concern, though, is that all of his starts to date have come against New York-breds. While I cannot completely throw him out as he makes his graded stakes debut, I have a feeling this deep field will prove just a little bit more than he wants in his first start in 3 ½ months.

Golden Glider

Another Casse runner, this one is perfect in two career starts. The first one came on the all-weather main track at Woodbine, and the next came last month in a local allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs. It says something to be perfect in two starts, but I’m not really sure he beat much in either race. The son of Ghostzapper is eligible to improve, but I think we will need to see more than he showed in his first race over the track. You can never completely discount an undefeated horse, but I like others better in here.


After doing next to nothing in his career debut at Ellis Park, this son of Upstart came alive in his next three. A good second in a sprint at Keeneland was followed up by a 6-length maiden score when being stretched out for the first time at Churchill Downs. Proving that victory was no fluke he came right back in late November for a clear victory against allowance company, also in Louisville. This will be his stakes debut, but the last three point out that he is ready for the challenge. He also has two nice wins at the distance. Offering some value against horses who have stakes experience, I think he will fit with these and is a must use for me in the exotics.


The third of three from the Casse barn, this son of Violence returned from a 4-month layoff to win a stretch long duel last month in a Gulfstream Park maiden race. It was a strong effort after being relatively unlucky in three starts as a juvenile, including finishing seventh of eleven in the Grade 1 Hopeful. Note that he had both first time blinkers and Lasix in the last and showed more speed than before. He is interesting off the last, but things only get tougher in this field.

Kitten Mischief

The well-bred son of Into Mischief has only won once in two career starts to this point, but does look like a horse with plenty of potential. Out of a multiple graded stakes winning mare named Kitten’s Point, he made his debut in the mud at Aqueduct and was a game winner going one mile. Off that, he returned in a Gulfstream Park allowance and made up some ground to be a decent second behind another promising horse. He’ll obviously need to improve, but it seems like he is headed in the right direction for trainer Jonathan Thomas. With speed in front of him here, I think he is a live long shot to come rallying up for a piece.

Unpredictable Bay

After knocking on the door with five consecutive runner-up finishes in maiden company, this son of Cairo Prince finally broke through to break his maiden in his seventh career start. While the 9 ¼-length romp in solid time was a good performance, it came against fellow maidens and at 6 furlongs. He has shown enough early speed throughout his career to expect him to be involved early, but as far as being a real threat in the stretch, it seems quite unlikely. He’s a pass for me.

Mr Rum Runner

The son of Uncaptured has been good enough to finish in the money in each of his five career starts, but with only a narrow maiden win two starts back in the bunch, he looks like a deserving long shot. He tried good horses last time, and while he did hold third in the Mucho Macho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park, he was a long way back from the first two, Simplification and Strike Hard. In a very deep field, he is near the bottom of the list for me.

Little Vic (AE)

This one is not in the main draw and as an also eligible will only run if there is a scratch in the race. If he does get in, the son of Practical Joke will bring plenty of speed to the Sam F. Davis. A sharp wire-to-wire winner of his debut, he stepped it up in his second race, giving next out graded stakes winner My Prankster everything he wanted in a 6 furlong allowance race. With other speed in here, I think this will be a tough spot for him, but if in, I fully expect him to be a strong presence on the early pace.

How to Watch the Sam F. Davis Stakes

Sam F. Davis Stakes Race Information
What Sam F. Davis Stakes (Grade 3)
Location Tampa Bay Downs
Time Saturday, February 12 — 4:54pm Eastern time
How to Watch TVG
Purse $250,000


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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

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