With 2-1 favorite Off Limits showing belated interest in fifth, it was the “other” Chad Brown runner, 7-2 third choice Fourstar Crook, who produced the best turn of foot to take Saturday’s $200,000 Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs. The New York-bred mugged Proctor’s Ledge in the final strides, helping jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. beat brother Jose on the wayward runner-up.
Proctor’s Ledge may have garnered more sympathy for her near-miss, if not for the fact that she contributed to her own loss while hampering another – and evading action by the stewards. After working out a good trip from just off the pace, and sweeping to the front into the stretch, Proctor’s Ledge ducked out abruptly several paths. She drifted right over the lane of the rallying Daddy’s Lil Darling, forcing her wider out. Proctor’s Ledge then rolled back in, and her sideways momentum shifts proved costly.
Fourstar Crook was able to take advantage. Saving ground in the early going, the Freud mare was nestled in the latter part of the field as longshot Dynatail carved out splits of :24.26, :49.45, and 1:13.14. But the pacesetter was finished rounding the far turn. Lovely Loyree gained a brief lead between calls, until Proctor’s Ledge cruised up on her outside. Meanwhile, Fourstar Crook had been gradually maneuvering toward an outside path in search of room, and she wound up well away from Proctor’s Ledge’s rightward lurch. Gaining fast, Fourstar Crook forced her head in front in a final time of 1:48.43 for 1 1/8 firm-turf miles.
Daddy’s Lil Darling, unfortunately, was looming near Proctor’s Ledge and unable to avoid an incident. Despite having her rightful running taken from her, she kept on for a close fourth, beaten only three-quarters of a length by Proctor’s Ledge and a nose by 5-2 second choice La Coronel. Jockey Julien Leparoux, aboard Daddy’s Lil Darling, lodged a claim of foul against Jose Ortiz on Proctor’s Ledge, but upon review, the stewards let the result stand.
Off Limits, anchored near the rear early, advanced among horses in the stretch. Although she had the physical room to move, she didn’t see a great deal of daylight, and that may have blunted her kick. Dropping back to the tail of the 10-horse field were the early leaders, Lovely Loyree and the trailing Dynatail.
Campaigned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and Gary Aisquith, Fourstar Crook sports a mark of 15-10-2-1, $813,166. She progressed through the state-bred stakes ranks, capturing the 2016 Yaddo and John Hettinger and the Mount Vernon in her 2017 debut, before making the grade in the July 4 Dr. James Penney Memorial (G3). That capped an eight-race winning spree halted next time when runner-up in her Yaddo title defense. Rebounding with a repeat victory in the Hettinger, the bay concluded the season with a solid third in the E.P. Taylor (G1), and opened 2018 in style here.
Fourstar Crook was bred by Kathleen M. Feron in the Empire State and initially sold for $55,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York Bred Sale. As a two-year-old in training, she RNA’d for $70,000 at Fasig-Tipton Florida but commanded $110,000 at the same firm’s Midlantic May Sale. The six-year-old is out of the d’Accord mare Avril a Portugal, from the further family of Honorable Miss and Bailjumper.