Ocean Knight, Catalina Red Top Sam F. Davis
Jan 30th, 2015
by Claire Novak
Stonestreet Stables' Ocean Knight, winner of his only start in solid fashion, heads a group of 12 entered for the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 31 at Tampa Bay Downs.
While the 1 1/16-mile Davis does not carry points on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), it is often used as a prep for the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), which offers points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers.
Ocean Knight is a 3-year-old son of Curlin and a $320,000 purchase from the De Meric Sales consignment at the 2014 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s selected sale of 2-year-olds in training. The bay colt aired by 4 1/4 lengths when favored in his Dec. 13 debut going six furlongs on the inner track at Aqueduct Racetrack. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee made a good move from off the pace, swinging out four wide to take command before gearing down late.
With four works at Palm Meadows Training Center to his credit, the most recent Jan. 23 a four-furlong bullet in :48.30—best of 28 at the distance on the day—Ocean Knight makes his 3-year-old debut from post 11 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons.
Anthony Lenci's local contender Catalina Red will face the challenge of his first graded start after winning Tampa's seven-furlong Pasco Stakes in a track record time of 1:21.40 Dec. 27, the first horse in Tampa Bay Downs' 89-year history to run seven furlongs in under 1:22.
That win, by a neck over recent Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) runner-up X Y Jet, came off a 7 1/4-length maiden-breaking victory for trainer Chad Stewart in the Dec. 6 Inaugural Stakes in a stakes-record time of 1:09.32 for six furlongs.
The Munnings colt had three tries at the maiden level before his stakes success. His first two starts had been on the turf in South Florida before Stewart switched him to the dirt for a runner-up effort Nov. 8 at Gulfstream Park West.
According to Stewart, Lenci has turned down six-figure offers to buy Catalina Red following his record-breaking performances.
"The offers got to be real good, but Mr. Lenci loves to race," the trainer said.
Catalina Red drew the rail under Daniel Centeno and carries highweight of 118 pounds; all others are assigned 116.
"He came out of the Pasco in good shape, and he's ready to go," said Stewart, who is also planning to start World Thoroughbreds Racing's Bandages in the Sam F. Davis. "I thought Catalina Red had a great workout Wednesday (a five-furlong breeze at Hunter Farm in 1:05.27). He finished strong and galloped out nice.
"He is just a very smart horse," added Stewart. "He stays relaxed, he doesn't show a lot of emotion and he likes his job. And I don't think it hurts him any to train (at Hunter Farm). It's a much calmer atmosphere than being at the track, and while some horses may need the racetrack environment, (Catalina Red) does well shipping in."
Other Sam F. Davis starters include G Five from the barn of Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who has sent out the Sam F. Davis winner in five of the last nine years; allowance winners My Johnny Be Good and Crittenden, both from the barn of trainer Eoin Harty; stakes-placed Brother Bobo, trained by Jason Servis; and Canadian invader Bears Personality, trained by Reade Baker.