Festival preview day features wide-open Sam F. Davis, three other stakes

At 0h05, on February 10, 2024 By TAMPA BAY DOWNS

Change of Command, a winner of his two most recent starts at Gulfstream Park, has been installed as a 3-1 morning-line favorite for the 44th running of the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.

The mile-and-a-sixteenth Sam F. Davis is the 10th race on an 11-race Festival Day 44 card, with post time for the first race at 12:27 p.m. Three other stakes are scheduled: the $150,000, mile-and-40-yard Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies; the $100,000, 6-furlong Pelican Stakes for horses 4-years-old-and-upward; and the $50,000, 6-furlong Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares 4-and-upward.

All four stakes races will be run on the main dirt track. The Sam F. Davis is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race, with the first five finishers earning 20, 10, 6, 4 and 2 points toward qualifying for a berth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve starting gate on May 4 at Churchill Downs.

It’s the same deal for the Suncoast, which will award the first five finishers the same number of points toward qualifying for the Longines Kentucky Oaks on May 3.

Change of Command, who is owned by the Courtlandt Farms operation of Donald Adam and trained by Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III, will break from the No. 9 post in a 12-horse field.

“I think he’s done really well since his last race” (an allowance/optional claiming victory at the Sam F. Davis distance on Jan. 5 at Gulfstream Park), McGaughey said this morning. “He is a talented horse who still has a lot to learn, and we’re giving him that chance.

“I think all of his races have been good. His workouts have been good, and if everything goes right they (the competition and his connections) are going to know he’s in there. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Tyler. My instructions to him will be to play the break, see what happens and give him a place to run when the time comes.”

The trainer plans to add blinkers to Change of Command’s equipment Saturday. “All of his races, he’s been hanging a little, and hopefully blinkers will keep him from doing that and he’ll continue his run,” McGaughey said.

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