The Hillsborough, at nine furlongs, is one of three grade III stakes on the Florida track's schedule for the Tampa Bay Festival program, along with the Tampa Bay Derby and Florida Oaks. Six older fillies and mares are entered in the Hillsborough.
Both Dreaming of Anna, the Eclipse Award-winning juvenile filly of 2006, and Lear's Princess, winner of the grade I Gazelle last year, were making their seasonal debuts in the 1 1/16-mile Endeavour. Frank Calabrese's homebred Dreaming of Anna ran as she usually does, setting a solid pace while opening up a clear advantage on the field, then fought like a wildcat through the stretch to maintain it.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Lear's Princess, stalked the leaders mid-pack into the stretch, then swung to the outside and finished with authority while coming up just short at the wire in a head-bobbing finish. It was nearly too close to call.
This time around, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Lear's Princess gets an extra half-furlong to work with and also enjoys a break at the weights. Dreaming of Anna, who carried 116 pounds in the Endeavour, is saddled with 122 in the Hillsborough. Lear's Princess totes 118, adding just one pound from her most recent effort.
Dreaming of Anna, to be ridden once again by Cornelio Velasquez, and Lear's Princess, with regular rider Eibar Coa aboard, will line up in the starting gate next to each other. 'Anna will be just to the inside in post 3.
Trained by Wayne Catalano, Dreaming of Anna has been nearly unbeatable since being switched to the turf full time following her sixth-place finish in last spring's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Since then, the chestnut daughter of Rahy has won four of five starts, the only blemish coming in a second-place showing behind Bit of Whimsy in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland to conclude her 3-year-old campaign last October.
Dreaming of Anna, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill Downs in November 2006 to capture the divisional championship, owns an 8-2-1 record in 12 starts with earnings of $1,748,172. Her record on turf, with six wins and two seconds in eight tries, has been even more impressive.
The last victory for Lear's Princess came over 3-year-old filly champion Rags to Riches in Belmont Park's Gazelle on Sept. 15. She had a dismal trip in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at sloppy Monmouth Park six weeks later and was given a break by McLaughlin after finishing 10th of 12. The daughter of Lear Fan also finished second in New York's Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) and Alabama Stakes (gr. I) during an outstanding 3-year-old campaign.
In eight lifetime starts, Lear's Princess has four wins and three seconds and has banked $459,100.
The two favorites stand out over the remainder of the field.
The stakes winning Maddy's Heart tuned up for the Hillsborough with a fourth-place finish facing high-level allowance foes on the Gulfstream Park lawn Feb. 15. The 4-year-old Lion Hearted filly captured Laurel's Maryland Millions Ladies on turf last fall over state breds for owner Dennis J. Federico and trainer Timothy Hills.
Earle Mack's Lady Digby, fourth in last fall's Calder Oaks, is coming off a nose loss when second in an allowance heat on the turf at Fair Grounds Feb. 9 for trainer H. Graham Motion.
The Great Britain-bred Mary Louhana, who began her career in Europe, has two wins on the Tampa Bay turf course in three tries since December for trainer Leigh Delacour. Those are the 5-year-old mare's only victories in 21 lifetime starts.
May Night, runner-up in both the Nassau (Can-II) and Dance Smartly (Can-II) at Woodbine last year, ran seventh in her comeback race for trainer Fred Seitz at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28. Fond of being a bridesmaid (she has seven second-place finishes), the 5-year-old Gulch mare has won twice in 22 starts.
$175,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 4:20 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Mary Louhana (GB), 116, Daniel Centeno
2. Lear's Princess (KY), 118, Eibar Coa
3. Dreaming of Anna (KY), 122, Cornelio H. Velasquez
4. Lady Digby (KY), 116, Jose A. Velez, Jr.
5. May Night (FL), 116, Robert C. Landry
6. Maddy's Heart (MD), 120, John R. Velazquez