Testa Rossi showed no rust following her four-month vacation before her 3-year-old debut.
In her first start since finishing second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT), Testa Rossi overpowered 11 other 3-year-old fillies in the stretch to post a 3 1/2-length victory in the $200,000 Florida Oaks (gr. IIIT) March 8 at Tampa Bay Downs (VIDEO).
James Covello, Thomas Coleman, and DMZ Racing Stable's Testa Rossi earned the second graded stakes win of her career as she capped a four-race win streak last year with a narrow victory in the Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park. There would be no close finish Saturday.
Istanford and jockey Joe Rocco Jr. wasted no time seizing the early lead in the Florida Oaks, leading longshot Spangled Banner through a half-mile in :48.16 and six furlongs in 1:12.51, which is where Testa Rossi would launch her move from fifth, 4 1/2 lengths off the pace. Istanford continued to show good energy into the stretch, but Testa Rossi, under Jose Lezcano, had shifted into a gear not possessed by any of her rivals and skipped by the early leader.
"We have some good ones but she is pretty special," Coleman said.
Winning trainer Chad Brown said Testa Rossi has developed nicely from age 2 to 3.
"She has really wintered well at Palm Meadows and put a lot of weight on and grown a little," Brown said. "She is doing all the things you like to see from 2 to 3. Judged on what we saw today, she should have a good year if she stays healthy."
A daughter of Dr Fong, Testa Rossi completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:43.51 on firm turf. Istanford held second to earn the first graded stakes placing of her career while 20-1 longshot Interrupted, a Pin Oak Stud homebred who won both her starts last year, closed from eighth in midstretch to finish third, also earning her first graded stakes placing.
Sent off as the even-money favorite, Testa Rossi returned $4 to win, $3 to place, $2.60 to show. Istanford paid $9.60 and $7 while 20-1 longshot Interrupted paid $8.40 to show.
Brown said he'll train Testa Rossi at Keeneland, see how she handles the Polytrack there, and consider a start in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I). If she does not like the synthetic surface, Brown said he'll find a turf race.