OLDSMAR, Fla. -- Trainer Mark Casse wasn't sure whether Flameaway was good enough to outrun Catholic Boy and a couple others Saturday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, but he was very confident of one thing.
"He's a fighter, this one," Casse said. "And I knew if there was a fight, he'd win it."
Always on the lead in a field of six, Flameaway and jockey Jose Lezcano briefly surrendered the lead to Catholic Boy after turning for home in the 1 1/16-mile Davis. But at the furlong pole there was little between the top two, and Flameaway roared back when racing closest to the rail to win by a half-length. He paid $22.60 as fourth choice after finishing in a stakes-record 1:42.44 over a fast track.
Flameaway, an Ontario-bred son of the late Scat Daddy, now has won five of seven career starts for Casse and owner John Oxley. The Grade 3 Davis marks his fourth stakes win, and his second in a graded event. This victory was worth 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to Flameaway on a weekend with no other designated preps for the May 5 Derby.
Flameaway was not an early nominee to the Triple Crown, but Casse said that most likely will be taken care of in the next round of payments.
"I'm not sure where we'll go next with him," Casse said in the immediate aftermath. "I'm just going to enjoy this one for a while."
Catholic Boy, making his first start since winning the Dec. 2 Remsen by nearly five lengths, ran creditably in defeat as the 7-10 choice.
"You always want to win, but I'm happy with him," trainer Jonathan Thomas said. "He came with his run, and for being off 10 weeks it was a solid race. I'll need to watch it again and digest it all, but my initial reaction is to say this will move us forward."
Thomas said before the race he was inclined to run Catholic Boy next in the March 31 Florida Derby as the only interim prep for the Kentucky Derby.
Vino Rosso, the 2-1 second choice, was just another three-quarters of a length behind Catholic Boy in third. It was another 8 1/2 lengths back to Hollywood Star in fourth, with Navy Armed Guard and Septimius Severus completing the order. Vouch was an early scratch and will run here Thursday in an allowance race.
The Davis record of 1:42.45 was set last year by McCraken. The track record of 1:41.75 was set last year on Tampa Bay Derby Day by Stanford.
The $2 exacta (2-6) paid $51.40, the $1 trifecta (2-6-3) returned $68.50, and the 10-cent superfecta (2-6-3-5) was worth $15.79.