Catholic Boy Kicks Off Sophomore Season Saturday In Tampa Bay’s Sam F. Davis Stakes

The following appeared in The Paulick Report February 8th. Catholic Boy is trained by Jonathan Thomas, son of the Virginia Equine Alliance’s Track Superintendent, John Dale Thomas. In addition to the Sam Davis Stakes Saturday, fans can make advance wagers on the May 5th Kentucky Derby from Friday Feb. 9 – Sunday Feb. 11. Virginia’s 3 OTBs will accept those bets — at Breakers Sports Grille and Ponies & Pints in Richmond, and  at Buckets Bar & Grill in Chesapeake. The four on line betting partner websites will also accept wagers —,, and    

Seven 3-year-old colts and geldings take their next steps Saturday toward a potential date with Thoroughbred racing destiny in the 38th edition of the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, the showcase of a 12-race Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South card at Tampa Bay Downs beginning at 12:13 p.m.

The mile-and-a-sixteenth Sam F. Davis on the main dirt track is a Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve points race, awarding 10-4-2-1 points to the first four finishers toward eligibility for the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 5. The Sam F. Davis is the 10th race.

Saturday’s program is also highlighted by the return to the Oldsmar oval of two-time Florida Cup winner World Approval, this time as an Eclipse Award winner. The 6-year-old gray Champion Turf Male and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner is a sturdy favorite against nine rivals in the 32nd annual Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes for older horses at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf course.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will make the trip to Tampa Bay Downs to renew acquaintances with World Approval, who drew the No. 7 post.

Also slated are the 19th edition of the Grade III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf and the 38th running of the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile-and-40-yards on the main track.

Manny Franco cools down Catholic Boy after winning the Remsen Stakes. Photo courtesy of Eric Kalet.

The Suncoast awards 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers toward eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks on May 4.

The likely favorites for the Sam F. Davis are Catholic Boy, who won the Grade II Remsen Stakes at on Dec. 2 at Aqueduct in his most recent start, and Hollywood Star, who finished second as a 2-year-old in both the Grade II Saratoga Special at Saratoga and the Grade III Iroquois at Churchill Downs.

The full field for the Sam F. Davis in post position order is as follows, with trainer and jockey:

1. Navy Armed Guard, Joan Scott, Jesus Castanon
2. Flameaway, Mark Casse, Jose Lezcano
3. Vino Rosso, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez
4. Septimius Severus, George Weaver, Jose Ortiz
5. Hollywood Star, Dale Romans, Joel Rosario
6. Catholic Boy, Jonathan Thomas, Manuel Franco
7. Vouch, Arnaud Delacour, Daniel Centeno.