Edited release from Tampa Bay Downs
Tampa Bay Downs' fans got a glimpse of a possible player in the grade III, $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby when White Buck sloshed to victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Threatening skies opened up over the Oldsmar, Fla. oval minutes before the 23rd running of the Sam F. Davis for 3-year-old colts and geldings but it didn't deter Olga Paradise's White Buck, trained by her husband, Jerry Paradise. "I wasn't concerned about the weather," Paradise said. "My horse has very big feet and I thought the off track would actually help me more than a dry track would." The gray or roan son of That's Our Buck was moving like silk over the track while warming up, according to rider, Roger Velez. "He just took to [the off track]," Velez said. "I knew it as soon as he was warming up; he was just gliding over it smooth as silk." Breaking from the third post position in the 10-horse field, White Buck stalked the early leaders, Grade III Spectacular Bid fourth place finisher Coach Jimi Lee and Ken McPeek-trainee Risky Cat, from fifth as those two dueled through early fractions of :23:73 and :48.37. That was the plan Paradise said. "I told [jockey] Roger [Velez] not to go to the lead with him," Paradise said. "Just sit as close to it as he could without being on it and make your run turning for home." Meanwhile, Velez had his hands full trying to follow the trainers instructions. "He really wanted to run on the backstretch; he was just dragging me." Velez said. "I wanted to bide my time because he has a habit of goofing off once he makes the lead. But he really wanted to do some running today." Angling out on the second turn White Buck, a 27-1 wagering outsider, went after leader Coach Jimi Lee and commenced a long duel with fellow longshot, 29.0-1 Duane Knipe-trainee Freedom Lane, as those two battled courageously down the Tampa Bay Downs stretch. Freedom Lane poked his nose in front briefly, but at the wire it was White Buck by a neck. Final time for the 1 1/16-mile main track test was 1:45.47 over a track officially labeled "sloppy." Coach Jimi Lee held on for third, three lengths behind Freedom Lane. White Buck rewarded the faithful with mutual payoffs of $56.40; $19.60 and $9.60. Even money favorite, Colita, with Aqueduct's leading rider Javier Castellano in to ride, finished fifth. Besides the $28,500 winner's share of the $50,000 purse, Paradise had another reason to be excited about his Florida-bred winner. "It's really exciting for us because we own the stallion [That's Our Buck]," Paradise said. "He's showing he's going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future." The conditioner said future plans for White Buck would be discussed after seeing how he came out of the Sam F. Davis. What about the Tampa Bay Derby? "He ran against some good competition today," Paradise said. "But the [trainers] Bill Motts, Christophe Clements and the like weren't here today. They can come with some pretty good horses for the [Tampa Bay] Derby so we're just going to play it by ear for now." Bred in Florida by Dr. and Mrs. Cornelius A. Link, White Buck improved his record to 9-2-3-1 and boosted his bank account to $62,000.