Trainer Mark Casse said Feb. 11 that Flameaway, the record-setting Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) winner, will return for the $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) March 10.
The Tampa Bay Derby is run at the same 1 1/16-mile distance the 3-year-old Scat Daddy colt completed Saturday in 1:42.44—one hundredth of a second faster than McCraken's 2017 stakes mark.
"I had that conversation with Mr. Oxley this morning, and that is the plan," said Casse, who teamed with owner John Oxley to win the 2012 Tampa Bay Derby with Prospective .
"When you think about (it), they've been running the (Sam F. Davis since 1981), and you look at all the horses that have won it. ... And he beat a solid group of horses. We're extremely proud of him." Casse said.
Flameaway fought back a stern challenge from favored Catholic Boy to post a half-length victory at odds of 10-1 under jockey Jose Lezcano.
It was the second grade 3 victory for Flameaway, who has five wins from seven starts and earnings of $434,834. He has won at five different tracks, running over synthetic, turf, fast dirt and wet tracks.
"Any time you see a horse that wins more than he loses, that is an exceptional horse," Casse said.
Flameaway was the only one of the six Sam F. Davis entrants not yet nominated to the Triple Crown.
"We'll fix that," Casse said.
Catholic Boy returned to trainer Jonathan Thomas' Bridlewood Farm base in Ocala, Fla., Sunday. Thomas said before the Sam F. Davis that the colt could race next in either the Tampa Bay Derby or the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) March 31 at Gulfstream Park, but amended that Sunday.
"Everything is in play," Thomas said.
Thomas would like to get one more race into Catholic Boy before a possible try in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) May 5.
"It's important to not panic or try to force the issue," he said. "Catholic Boy replicated his (performance) from the grade 2 Remsen (in December at Aqueduct Racetrack) and he's healthy. In retrospect I might have been a little light on him from a training perspective, but we're anticipating a long spring. We'll probably try to have one more prep, and if he's good enough, he will earn his way into (the Kentucky Derby)."
Thomas said he will also monitor where other top contenders go, as trainers seek the Road to the Kentucky Derby points needed to qualify for the race. Flameaway picked up 10 points for his victory, Catholic Boy got four for second, Vino Rosso received two for third, and Hollywood Star brought in one for fourth.
Flameaway and World Approval, the Casse-trained 6-year-old gelding who took the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3T), returned Saturday night to the conditioner's Palm Meadows Training Center base, along with La Coronel, who finished second to Dona Bruja in the Feb. 10 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes (G3T).
World Approval, the reigning champion turf male, is being pointed for the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) March 31.
"That's still the plan, but it is not written in stone," Casse said. "There is not any pressure from (owner Charlotte Weber) to get there. Ultimately she will make the final call."
Casse said if all goes well with La Coronel's training, she could return March 10 for the $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes (G2T) at 1 1/8 miles.