Front-running Flameaway repelled a challenge from odds-on Catholic Boy through the long stretch to prevail by a half-length in Saturday's $200,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, a Road to the Kentucky Derby series points race.
Under Jose Lezcano, the multiple stakes-winning son of Scat Daddy went to the lead and set a pace of :24.18, :47.7, and 1:11.25. Catholic Boy, favored at 3-5, tracked in third most of the way and made a three-wide bid for the lead approaching the quarter pole.
Appearing as if he would move on by easily, Catholic Boy instead ran into a bulldog in Flameaway, who dug in gamely and refused to lose. The final time for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track was 1:42.44, which narrowly eclipsed McCraken's stakes record set last year.
“He's a fighter. If you've ever watched him, you've seen that,” trainer Mark Casse said. “With the track playing a little fast today, I told Jose he was going to like this track. The one thing about him is, if he gets in a battle, he's going to win the battle."
Owned by John Oxley, who campaigned 2001 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Monarchos, Flameaway returned $22.60 and earned his first 10 qualifying points toward Derby eligibility. Casse said Flameaway might come back for the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 10, which awards 50 Derby points to the winner.
Catholic Boy, the Remsen (G2) winner, earned four points, bringing his total to 14. Third-place finisher Vino Rosso, three parts of a length behind Catholic Boy in his stakes debut, earned two points, while Hollywood Star earned one point to bring his total to three.
This was the fourth career stakes win for Flameaway, who previously captured two off-the-turf stakes -- the $100,000 Skidmore at Saratoga and the Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland -- as well as the $100,000 Kitten's Joy at Gulfstream Park on turf last time. A debut winner on Woodbine's Tapeta surface last May, his only two disappointments have been unplaced finishes in the Iroquois (G3) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
Bred in Ontario by Phoenix Rising Farms and a $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling, Flameaway is out of Vulcan Rose, by Fusaichi Pegasus, who has also reared the stakes-winning Ellan Vannin. This is the extended family of English and Irish classic winner Salsabil.