Sam F. Davis Stakes 2023: Contenders & Odds

Horse Betting Online

Tampa Bay Downs Press Release
Updated: February 09, 2023

Road to the Kentucky Derby: Grade 3 Sam F. Davis

Wonder Wheel, the 2022 Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Filly, is set to make her 2023 debut in Saturday's $150,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Suncoast Stakes, a mile-and-40-yard contest for 3-year-old fillies on the main dirt track, is part of Saturday's 11-race Festival Preview Day card, headlined by the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the dirt.

Both the Suncoast and the Sam F. Davis are part of a points system leading to Churchill Downs in Louisville the first weekend of May, with the Suncoast awarding points to the first five finishers toward qualifying for the Longines Kentucky Oaks on May 5 and the Sam F. Davis awarding points to the top five toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 6.

Points for both races will be awarded on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale.

2023 Sam F. Davis Stakes Field & Odds

Race 10 at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, February 11 - Post 5:18 PM

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Worthington 20-1 Pablo Morales
122 Lbs
Michael Maker
2 Prairie Hawk 6-1 Samy Camacho
120 Lbs
Saffie Joseph, Jr.
3 Classic Legacy 12-1 Junior Alvarado
120 Lbs
William Mott
4 Laver 15-1 Jose Morelos
120 Lbs
George Arnold, II
5 Groveland 12-1 Daniel Centeno
120 Lbs
Eoin Harty
6 Classic Car Wash 20-1 Emisael Jaramillo
120 Lbs
Mark Casse
7 Dubyuhnell 9-5 Jose Ortiz
124 Lbs
Danny Gargan
8 Notah 30-1 Antonio Gallardo
120 Lbs
John Terranova, II
9 Champions Dream 9-2 Tyler Gaffalione
122 Lbs
Mark Casse
10 Dreaming of Kona 12-1 Scott Spieth
122 Lbs
Aldana Spieth
11 Litigate 5-1 Luis Saez
120 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
12 Zydeceaux 20-1 Samuel Marin
120 Lbs
Ramon Minguet

Nine fillies have been entered for the Suncoast, with 12 colts and geldings entered in the Sam F. Davis. Two other stakes will also be contested Saturday, both at a distance of 6 furlongs on the main track: the $100,000 Pelican Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward and the $50,000 Minaret for fillies and mares 4-and-upward.

First post time will be 12:25 p.m. The Minaret is the seventh race on the card, followed in direct order by the Pelican, the Suncoast and the Sam F. Davis.

Tampa Bay Downs trainer Aldana Spieth has entered Oldsmar-based Dreaming of Kona, the stakes-winning gray colt she owns in partnership under her Aldana Gonzalez Racing banner with sister and brother Lisa Ballou and Steve Ballou, in the Sam F. Davis. Spieth's husband, Scott Spieth, will ride Dreaming of Kona.

Mark Casse, the trainer of Wonder Wheel, sounded eager this morning to kick off Wonder Wheel's sophomore campaign in the Suncoast. "She is ready. All systems are go," Casse said of Wonder Wheel, whose actual birthday was celebrated Tuesday.

As he has in all five of her races, jockey Tyler Gaffalione will be aboard. Wonder Wheel won four of those 2-year-old starts, capped by victories on Oct. 7 in the Grade I Darley Alcibiades and on Nov. 4 in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, both at Keeneland. She won the latter race with a dramatic, sustained rally from 11th place early, drawing away under Gaffalione to a 3-length victory.

Career earnings for the D. J. Stable-owned star are $1,550,725.

Casse, who has also entered Live Oak Plantation's filly Ticker Tape Home in the Suncoast, has been excited by Wonder Wheel's potential since she arrived at his Casse Training Center in Ocala last March. "We got her in the fall (of 2021) and broke her, and she acted like she was better than average early last year. But we really started singing her praises at Saratoga," he said.

Wonder Wheel finished second there on Sept. 4 in the Grade I Spinaway to Leave No Trace, who was second in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. But it was the way Wonder Wheel went about her lessons that most impressed her conditioner.

"Anything she does, she does it effortlessly," Casse said. "She just amazes me how she trains. Most things other horses have to work hard to accomplish, she will do it easily. That is usually the first indication (of an outstanding racehorse).

"Tyler has loved her from the start," Casse said. "Let's see where she goes from here, but she probably is the best 2-year-old I have ever trained."

Casse does not expect an easy time of things; not by any means. The Suncoast field includes Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher's Julia Shining, who won the Grade II Demoiselle Stakes on Dec. 3 at Aqueduct, and trainer Arnaud Delacour's locally based Opus Forty Two, winner here of the Gasparilla Stakes on Jan. 14.

Casse also has two entrants in the Sam F. Davis, Champions Dream and Classic Car Wash. Champions Dream, who closed fast to be second to Zydeceaux here by a neck on Jan. 14 in the Pasco Stakes, is "definitely a much better horse now than he was (then)," Casse said.

Gaffalione has the riding assignment on Champions Dream, as well.

Here is the full field for the Suncoast Stakes in post position order, with horse, trainer and jockey listed:

2023 Suncoast Stakes Field & Odds

Race 9 at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, February 11 - Post 4:48 PM

Entry Horse Jockey Trainer
1 Wonder Wheel Tyler Gaffalione
124 Lbs
Mark Casse
2 Opus Forty Two Daniel Centeno
120 Lbs
Arnaud Delacour
3 Charlie's Wish Emisael Jaramillo
120 Lbs
David Fawkes
4 Champagne Calling Julien Leparoux
120 Lbs
Ian Wilkes
5 Dreaming of Snow Samy Camacho
120 Lbs
Gerald Bennett
6 Guns n' Graces Hector Diaz, Jr.
120 Lbs
Chad Brown
7 Fast Tracked Angel Suarez
120 Lbs
Arnaud Delacour
8 Ticker Tape Home Antonio Gallardo
120 Lbs
Mark Casse
9 Julia Shining Luis Saez
124 Lbs
Todd Pletcher

There is little debate Dreaming of Kona is much improved since last seen here on Dec. 3, when he finished third in the Inaugural Stakes without threatening the top two. Dreaming of Kona returned to action on Jan. 1 at Gulfstream in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, finishing a half-length behind Legacy Isle and being elevated to the win position via disqualification because Legacy Isle drifted out late, impeding Dreaming of Kona's momentum.

Back home, Dreaming of Kona settled in nicely before turning in a blistering 4-furlong breeze of 46 4/5 seconds on Jan. 18 with Spieth aboard, the best of 43 workouts that day at the distance. "He galloped out very strong and was under a minute (for 5 furlongs)," Aldana Spieth said.

"He's doing very good now, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he has progressed (since the Mucho Macho Man). He was already very professional, but I think a lot of stuff clicked for him after that race. The shipping, the different environment, he handled everything well," Spieth said.

"If he knew halfway what he is supposed to do at that point, he is probably up to 75 or 80 percent now. But he is still learning and enthusiastic about everything, and he is very focused. He loves to train and be out there and do his thing."

Dreaming of Kona, whose career record of 2-for-3 includes his maiden victory Oct. 17 at Presque Isle Downs in his career debut, was named for Kailua-Kona, that portion of the island of Hawaii that has bedazzled travelers for centuries. Spieth said his different shades of coloring brought the rocky island paradise to mind, resulting in the colt's nickname of "Rocky."

The nickname has evolved to have a double meaning, Spieth said. ""We didn't have any horses to go in company with him (during workouts), because he knocked them all out and they couldn't work with him again. So Scott joked that he was like (fictional prize fighter) Rocky Balboa."

One thing is for certain: There are a lot of punchers entered in the Sam F. Davis Stakes whose KO prowess has yet to be established.

Saturday, then, is a good time for backyard brawling. - US Legal Tampa Bay Downs OTB is a great way to bet on the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Available to customers across the United States, OTB features both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing from major racing venues in the US as well as top international racing from Europe, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong.

Pre-Draw News


FEB 6 - Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Sam F. Davis Stakes a record six times, has nominated eight 3-year-olds for the 43rd running of the Grade III, $250,000 "Road to the Kentucky Derby" prep race on Feb. 11 at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Sam F. Davis, which awards Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first five finishers on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale, has attracted 41 nominations. It will be contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track. The Sam F. Davis is the major prep for the Grade III, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 11.

The Kentucky Derby is scheduled May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

The Sam F. Davis is the centerpiece of Festival Preview Day, featuring four stakes races worth a combined $550,000 in purse money. The 43rd running of the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies drew 26 nominations, headed by trainer Mark Casse's 2022 Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Wonder Wheel, who won the NetJets Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 4 at Keeneland.

The Suncoast Stakes will be run at a distance of a mile-and-40-yards on the main track. The Suncoast is a "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" prep race, awarding qualifying points to the first five finishers for the May 5 Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale.

The other Festival Preview Day Stakes are the 39th running of the $100,000 Pelican Stakes, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward sprinting 6 furlongs on the main track, and the 42nd running of the $50,000 Minaret Stakes, for fillies and mares 4-and-upward racing 6 furlongs on the main track.

Horse Racing Rebates

Pletcher's total of nominees for the Sam F. Davis equals his number of Eclipse Awards as Outstanding Trainer after he edged Chad Brown in the balloting.

Pletcher, who last won the Sam F. Davis in 2016 with subsequent Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up Destin, has a graded-stakes winner among his eight nominees in Major Dude, owned by Spendthrift Farm. The colt won the Grade II Pilgrim Stakes on Oct. 2 on the outer turf course at the Belmont At The Big A meeting.

Other graded stakes-winning nominees for the Davis include Casse's colt Champions Dream, a son of Justify who won the Grade III Nashua Stakes on Nov. 6 at Aqueduct, and trainer Danny Gargan's colt Dubyuhnell, winner of the Grade II Remsen on Dec. 3 at Aqueduct.

Also nominated are trainer Ramon Minguet's Florida-bred gelding Zydeceaux, winner of the Pasco Stakes here over Champions Dream on Jan. 14, and conditioner Aldana Spieth's colt Dreaming of Kona, who won the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Jan. 1 at Gulfstream via disqualification.

Other trainers with multiple Sam F. Davis nominations include Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott and Saffie A. Joseph, Jr., each with four; and Casse, Greg Sacco and George "Rusty" Arnold, II, each with two.

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