Coney Kitty survived a steward's inquiry and a jockey's objection to record a neck victory over Madeira Mist in the $100,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Tampa Bay Downs turf.
Third behind Madeira Mist in the Endeavour Stakes, a race where only 3 ¾ lengths separated first through 10th place, Coney Kitty was reserved toward the back of the field of 12 older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles. She advanced through traffic around a congested second turn, then rallied inside the furlong marker down the center of the course. She came out a bit under winning rider Jose Santos left-handed urging which pushed out both Madeira Mist and eventual third place finisher, Alternate.
James Toner trains the winner.
Love Sting and last year's Hillsborough winner Strait From Texas dueled through early fractions of :24.71 and :49.07. The pair was still at it after six furlongs in 1:12.80 when the cavalry charge for the wire formed up. Love Sting faded while Strait From Texas managed to hold on for fourth.
Winning rider Santos was happy with the stewards decision to let the order of finish stand.
"It was a very tough call, but I'm very happy," last year's Kentucky Derby winning rider said. " I was concerned about it, but they have stewards that understand when a horse touches another from the rear end it always wants to go to sideways.
"I think this was an excellent race. This racetrack has been improving more and more, and is going forward every year. I'm real happy about that.
Bred in Ireland by Tony Doyle, the win was the sixth for the 6-year-old daughter of Lycius
from 27 starts. Her earnings jumped to $296,823 with the $60,000 winner's share of the purse.
Coney Kitty paid $7.80, $3.60 and $3.20. Madeira Mist returned $3.20 and $2.60. Alternate's show was $4.40.