Barbara Hunter’s Keertana, unbeaten in both starts this season, will be among the favorites in a competitive field of nine drawn for the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Tampa Bay Downs March 12.
The nine-furlong turf race for fillies and mares also includes two-time graded stakes winner Askbut I Won'ttell, Suwannee River (gr. IIIT) victor Cherokee Queen, and French filly Zagora, who was installed, somewhat surprisingly, as the 5-2 morning-line choice despite being off since October.
The Hillsborough is the first of two graded stakes on a Tampa Bay card that features the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III).
Keertana comes off of a half-length win in the Feb. 20 The Very One Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park, which came a month after she won an allowance event at Tampa Bay in her 5-year-old debut when dead heating with stablemate You Go West Girl. Keertana finished third by only a half-length in November’s Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT). In her 25-race career, the Johar mare has finished in the money 19 times and has earned $809,371.
Leandro Goncalves will be aboard Keertana for trainer Tom Proctor. They will break from post 3.
Team Block and Rich Ege’s Askbut I Won’ttell had a two-race win streak snapped when finishing second by a half-length in the Jan. 29 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream. The 5-year-old Horse Chestnut mare ended her 2010 campaign by scoring the Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs and My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder. She has earned more than $380,000 from six wins and 17 starts.
Trainer Chris Block has named Carlos Marquez Jr. to ride Askbut I Won’ttell. They drew post 9.
Also among the top betting choices will be Cherokee Queen. The 6-year-old Cherokee Run mare most recently scored a two-length victory in the Feb. 5 Suwannee River at Gulfstream for Farnsworth Stables and trainer Marty Wolfson in her season debut. A winner of eight of 27 lifetime starts and earnings of $477,812, Cherokee Queen will be making her first start at Tampa. Alex Solis gets the call.
Zagora, a 4-year-old French-bred mare, finished runner-up in her U.S. debut in the grade I Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland in October. While running France, Zagora won a pair of group III events and hit the board in six of eight starts. Ramon Dominguez will ride for Chad Brown.
$150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 4:20 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds 1. Ruling Class (FL), R D Allen Jr., 116, K O'Connell, 30/1
2. General Consensus (KY), W Martinez, 116, E Kenneally, 8/1
3. Keertana (KY), L R Goncalves, 120, T F Proctor, 7/2
4. It's Tea Time (KY), A Garcia, 120, G R Arnold II, 6/1
5. Zagora (FR), R A Dominguez, 120, C C Brown, 5/2
6. Box Office Queen (KY), D Centeno, 118, L Delacour, 20/1
7. Cherokee Queen (KY), A O Solis, 120, M D Wolfson, 5/1
8. Denomination (KY), F Lenclud, 120, C Clement, 8/1
9. Askbut I Won'ttell (FL), C H Marquez Jr., 120, C M Block, 4/1