December 3, 2023

Grade 1 veterans among seven in Hillsborough

Shantisara wins the 2021 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland (Photo by Coady Photography)

A classy field of seven fillies and mares will square off Saturday in the $225,000 Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs, which will be run over nine furlongs on the turf.

Trainer Chad Brown has won the Hillsborough in three of the past five years and relies on two Grade 1-winning five-year-olds. Shantisara was second best in the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) when last seen six weeks ago, while E.P. Taylor (G1) heroine Rougir is unraced since a poor effort at the Breeders’ Cup in November.

Surprisingly returns to the scene of neck victory over Scotish Star in the Feb. 4 Endeavour (G3), while the seven-year-old veteran Temple City Terror turns back from longer distances after capturing the Dowager (G3) and Long Island (G3) last fall.

Multiple Grade 3 winner Gam’s Mission has not raced since taking the Mint Julep (G3) at Churchill Downs last June, while German-bred Kalifornia Queen has placed in her last five graded stakes appearances.

Classic Causeway, whose graded stakes wins last season included the Belmont Derby (G1), Tampa Bay Derby (G2), and Sam F. Davis (G3), will put his perfect local mark on the line in the $100,000 Challenger (G3) over 1 1/16 miles.

Unraced since November, Classic Causeway could face his stiffest challenge from multiple Grade 3 winner Skippylongstocking, who drops in class following a seventh-place effort in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) in late January.

Dreaming of Snow, who shocked champion Wonder Wheel and Julia Shining in last month’s Suncoast S. on the dirt, will test her turf prowess over 1 1/16 miles in the $200,000 Florida Oaks (G3). Favoritism, however, is likely to go to Free Look, who finished second in the Miss Grillo (G2) and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) for Chad Brown last fall.

Alpha Bella, a close second in the Sweetest Chant (G3) most recently for Todd Pletcher, is another who figures to receive significant support.

The $75,000 Columbia S., for three-year-olds at one mile on the turf, marks the season debut of Freedom Trail, who went 2-for-2 on the grass last season. Winner of the Awad S. at Aqueduct in his second start, he was most recently eighth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) on the dirt in November.

Mo Stash, fourth as a 51-1 longshot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) also merits a look, while other potential contenders include Talk of the Nation, Worthington, and Lights of Broadway.