Grade I winner Zagora, second in last year's Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) to Denomination in a tight finish, will attempt to turn the tables in 2012 when the two mares meet again in the grass event March 10 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Denomination, trained by Christophe Clement for Ghislaine Head, won last year's Hillsborough by a neck, prevailing in the final strides over the French-bred Zagora, who had rallied to get her head in front at mid-stretch. Zagora, trained by Chad Brown for Martin S. Schwartz, went on to win Saratoga's Diana Stakes (gr. IT) last summer while Denomination later captured the Violet Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park and the Athenia (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park.
Those two head a field of 10 older fillies and mares in a nine-furlong race that also attracted grade III winner Unbridled Humor and recent stakes winners Hooh Why and Snow Top Mountain. The Hillsborough, part of the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) program, is the 10th race on the card with an expected post of 4:58 p.m. EST.
Zagora, a 5-year-old daughter of Green Tune, made a successful 2012 debut at Tampa Bay Feb. 4, winning the Endeavour Stakes (gr. IIIT) by an easy 2 1/4 lengths as the 9-10 favorite. Javier Castellano retains the mount on the 122-pound top weight.
Jockey Julien Leparoux takes over on Denomination, a 6-year-old by Smart Strike . She made her seasonal debut Feb. 11 with a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Suwannee River Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park.
Barbara Hunter's homebred Snow Top Mountain, who drew won the far outside post for trainer Tom Proctor, won the Suwannee River by a half-length. The 5-year-old Najran mare will have Jose Lezcano aboard.
Hooh Why registered a 17-1 surprise in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf in her most recent start Jan. 28 at Gulfstream. Owned by the estate of Gail Gee, Mark Hoffman, and Earl Trostrud Jr. and trained by Shirley Girten-Drake, the 6-year-old daughter of Cloud Hopping is closing in on $1 million in career earnings with $943,172. She has won nine of 36 lifetime starts. Leandro Goncalves rides.
Live Oak Plantation's homebred Unbridled Humor ran fourth in the race won by Hooh Why after making a belated bid in her first start of the campaign. Graham Motion trains the 5-year-old Distorted Humor mare, winner of the Noble Damsel (gr. IIIT) at Belmont last year after a disappointing seventh as the favorite in the Diana. Joe Rocco Jr. climbs aboard for the first time.
$150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 10, 4:58 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Sea Level Drive (KY), R B Homeister Jr., 116, G R Arnold, II
2. Megaspiel (GB), S Spieth, 116, E R Reed
3. Hooh Why (FL), L R Goncalves, 116, S K Girten-Drake
4. Last Full Measure (KY), M R Cruz, 116, P J Oliver
5. Denomination (KY), J R Leparoux, 120, C Clement
6. Unbridled Humor (FL), J Rocco Jr., 120, H G Motion
7. Zagora (FR), J Castellano, 122, C C Brown
8. Federation (GB), P Morales, 118, C Clement
9. Gold d'Oro (KY), D Coa, 118, W I Mott
10. Snow Top Mountain (KY), J Lezcano, 120, T F Proctor