El Camino Real Derby & Sam F Davis Stakes Recaps

There’s another name in the frame for the Kentucky Derby after Classic Causeway threw down the gauntlet to his peers with an impressive success in the Grade 3 Sam F Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. Three thousand miles away, Blackadder earned a spot in the Preakness when coming along late to win the ungraded El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

Sam F Davis Stakes

Classic Causeway takes a giant stride

The form of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in November gained another huge boost when Classic Causeway ran out a dominant winner of the Sam F Davis Stakes, the feature at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday and worth ten points on the ‘Road’ to the Kentucky Derby.

Classic Causeway was runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club, splitting current Derby favourite Smile Happy and last week’s Holy Bull winner White Abarrio, with recent Lecomte winner Call Me Midnight back in seventh, and the son of Giant’s Causeway launched his own bid for the ‘Roses’ when putting his rivals to the sword here. In a race where speed was the key, Classic Causeway was just too fast.

He came from the gate like a bullet under Irad Ortiz, immediately on the lead, and although Little Vic kept him company through three-quarters of a mile he had no answer to the surge Classic Causeway produced at the top of the lane, the 8-5 favourite barrelling clear to win going away by three and three-quarter lengths, stopping the clock in 1:42 and four-fifths. Shipsational rallied gamely to claim the ‘place’ slot by a length from Volcanic but the winner had flown.

“We always hoped that he was of this quality, and he took the step he needed to keep the dream alive,” said trainer Brian Lynch, who has never had a runner in the Kentucky Derby.

This was the first win at stakes level for Classic Causeway, who has already been placed in a Grade 1. His next target may be the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, back here on March 12, in which he could renew rivalry with Shipsational.

El Camino Real Derby

Blackadder goes forth for Baffert

There were ten ‘Road’ points on offer for the winner of the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, but they went unused as Blackadder made his stakes breakthrough in battling style for trainer Bob Baffert.

The race also carried an automatic berth for the Preakness, and that is a more plausible target after the Quality Road colt came running hard through the stretch to collar 3-5 favourite Mackinnon – running in the same teal and pink silks – in the last few jumps and win by a neck. Blackadder covered the nine furlongs in 1:50 and two-fifths and paid off at $9.60. Mackinnon’s barnmate Del Mo took third, three and a half lengths back.

“Bob told me he can be a bit lazy,” said jockey Edwin Maldonado. “I just stuck to my game plan to stay last and wait on the fence, wait, wait, wait. I got the opening and he did it for me.”

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