01/31/2015 6:08PM

Ocean Knight finishes strong to win Sam F. Davis Stakes

Stephanie Van Minos
Ocean Knight wins the Sam F. Davis Stakes by a neck Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.

Ocean Knight overcame a wide trip Saturday before wearing down the longshot Divining Rod in an exciting 35th running of the Grade 3, $201,500 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Ocean Knight was hung out on both turns after breaking from post 11 in the 1 1/16-mile race but persevered in a long drive to prevail by a neck over Divining Rod, the race-long leader. It was another five lengths back to My Johnny Be Good in a field of 12 3-year-olds.

Favored at 8-5 off his only start, a Dec. 13 sprint win over the Aqueduct inner track, Ocean Knight returned $5.20 after finishing in 1:43.74 over a fast track. Ocean Knight, a Kentucky-bred by Curlin, was purchased last year by Stonestreet Stables for $320,000. The colt is based at the Palm Meadows training center with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

“I thought it was very impressive,” said McLaughlin, who watched via simulcast from Gulfstream Park. “I was worried about the outside, but I told Irad that if the colt was going nice and not in trouble, don’t worry about being wide. He used his best judgment, and it worked out great for us.”

The Davis is not a part of the points system that determines eligibility into the Kentucky Derby. It was a points race in 2013, the first year for the system, but was removed last year amid a dispute between Tampa and Churchill over simulcast issues.

The Davis comes five weeks before the track’s signature race, the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 7. The Tampa Bay Derby is on the Kentucky Derby points schedule, with 50 points to the winner.

“He seemed to like the track so much that we’ll probably send him back there for the next race there,” said McLaughlin, who also has Frosted, Imperia, and Classy Class as Derby hopefuls.

Divining Rod, a 28-1 shot ridden by Luis Garcia for Lael Stables and trainer Arnaud Delacour, turned back all challengers when setting the pace. It was only in the last 20 yards that Ocean Knight reeled him in.

After the top three, the order was Ami’s Flatter, Catalina Red, Crittenden, Royal Son, Coomer, Bears Personality, Brother Bobo, Bandages, and G Five.

The $2 exacta (11-5) paid $107.20, the $1 trifecta (11-5-9) returned $304.50, and the 10-cent superfecta (11-5-9-3) was worth $115.58.