Silver Wing Stable’s Free Country, undefeated in two starts including an impressive nine-furlong allowance win at Gulfstream Park last month, makes his highly-anticipated stakes debut in the $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 14 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Free Country will face 10 sophomore rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Sam Davis, including Musket Man and Top Seed–both undefeated in three starts–and Remsen Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Atomic Rain.
The main track event headlines the Festival Preview Day card at Tampa Bay and will go to post as race 10 on the 12-race card. Also included on the day is the $125,000 Endeavour Stakes (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares 4 years old and up running 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
One of several talented 3-year-olds in Ken McPeek's barn, Free Country, broke his maiden in November at Churchill Downs, and then scored by a neck over Atomic Rain in the Jan. 8 allowance race. Kent Desormeaux was aboard for both of those victories and will get the return mount Feb. 14 when Free Country breaks from post seven. The colt is listed as the 3-1 morning-line choice.
Bred in Kentucky by George Brunacini and Bona Terra Farm, Free Country is a son of Big Country, out of the Wild Again mare Smyrna.
George and Lori Hall’s Atomic Rain has finished runner-up in three of his first four career starts. The Smart Strike colt ended his juvenile campaign with a distant second-place finish in the Remsen when Old Fashioned sparkled at Aqueduct. He then opened his 3-year-old season by battling Free Country at Gulfstream only to come up just short under John Velazquez, who will be aboard once again.
Atomic Rain (7-2), who broke his maiden at Monmouth Park last June going five furlongs, will break from post five.
Carrying top weight of 120 pounds will be Eric Fein and Vic Carlson’s Musket Man. The Yonaguska colt is unblemished from three starts, all at different racetracks. Breaking his maiden at Belmont in October and taking an allowance at Philadelphia Park the following month, Musket Man opened his 3-year-old season Jan. 17 at Tampa by taking the Pasco Stakes by a length. Second in that race was current Sam Davis entrant General Quarters.
This will be the first attempt at two turns for Musket Man, who is trained by Derek Ryan and is 9-2 on the morning-line.
Also undefeated in three starts from three different racetracks is Top Seed, owned the by the father-son team of Harry and Tom Meyerhoff. A son of Grand Slam, the bay colt is also coming off of a minor stakes win at Tampa, as he took the six furlong Inaugural Stakes Dec. 27, ironically, also beating General Quarters by a length. The Michael Trombetta trainee will have to break from post 11 in the Sam Davis.
Also worthy of consideration is Lambholm Stables’ homebred gelding Mitchell Park, a 3 3/4-length winner in allowance company Jan. 11 at Tampa, and A.P. Cardinal, a $380,000 2-year-old purchase who enters off a runner-up effort in a nine-furlong Gulfstream allowance race.
$225,000 Sam F. Davis (gr. III, Race 10, 4:48 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Medaglia d'Onore (KY), 116, Daniel Centeno
2. General Quarters (KY), 116, James Lopez
3. Player's List (FL), 116, Arienne Cox
4. Mitchell Park (FL), 116, Luis Antonio Gonzalez
5. Atomic Rain (KY), 116, John R. Velazquez
6. Cliffy's Future (KY), 116, Pascacio Lopez
7. Free Country (KY), 116, Kent J. Desormeaux
8. A. P. Cardinal (KY), 116, Joe Bravo
9. Musket Man (KY), 120, Jose Lezcano
10. Sumo (KY), 116, Rene R. Douglas
11. Top Seed (KY), 118, Ronald Dale Allen, Jr.