By Christina Bossinakis
A promising group looking to punch their tickets to this season's Triple Crown in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile GIII Sam F. Davis S., awarding 'Road to the Kentucky Derby' points to the first four finishers (10-14-2-1). Looking to return to the winner's circle is Kentucky West Racing and Clarke M. Cooper's Classic Causeway (Giant's Causeway), trained by Brian Lynch. An impressive 6 1/2-length winner ahead of next-out scorer Trafalgar (Lord Nelson) in his career debut going seven furlongs at Saratoga Sept. 4, the chestnut came home third in Keeneland's GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity Oct. 9 before playing the bridesmaid to undefeated Smile Happy (Runhappy) in Churchill's GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. Nov. 27. On that occasion, he finished ahead of third-place finisher White Abarrio (Race Day), who returned to annex his seasonal bow in the Feb. 5 GIII Holy Bull S. at Gulfstream. Irad Ortiz Jr. rides Classic Causeway for the first time Saturday.
“I'd like to see him get his first graded-stakes victory and keep picking up Derby points,” said Lynch. “His workouts have been solid, and everything about them suggests he should run well.”
He added, “I feel that if he runs his race, he will certainly fit with these horses. He has a high cruising speed and he has gotten much bigger and stronger as a 3-year-old. He has the tactical speed to not be very far from the engine room, and hopefully, he will be first to the wire.”
Red Oak Stable's Make It Big (Neolithic) attempts to collect his first win at the graded level following a trio of wins, including Gulfstream's Juvenile Sprint S. in October before a narrow score in Remington's Springboard Mile S. Dec. 17.
“He got in between horses and had to rate a bit, and then he got hooked late and had to out-battle him to the wire. It was a very professional performance,” said Saffie Joseph Jr. of the colt's latest win. “This horse has a good mind, and he has found a way to win each time. He probably needs to improve to win Saturday, but he has improved in each race, so hopefully he will follow suit.”
Iris Smith Stable's Shipsational (Midshipman) ventures south following a trio of victories facing fellow New York breds. A debut winner at Saratoga last summer, he was fourth in that venue's state-bred Funny Cide S. but bounced back to win his next two, including the one-mile Sleep Hollow S. at Belmont Oct. 30.
God of Love (Cupid), winner of the GIII Grey S. at Woodbine last November, is one of three runners for Mark Casse. The Hall of Famer also conditions undefeated Golden Glider (Ghostzapper) and recent maiden winner Volcanic (Violence).
Howling Time (Not This Time) was a late scratch Friday.