Tampa Bay Downs’ Hillsborough Comes Up Huge

March 07, 2015 01:57am


Saturday is set to be a fantastic day of racing. We have Shared Belief in the Big Cap, a small but select field for the Gulfstream Park Handicap, and of course, a trio of 2015 Kentucky Derby Championship Series races at Aqueduct, Santa Anita, and Tampa Bay Downs respectively, in which to anticipate. Despite that impressive list, it just might be another race that is the best of the weekend. With little fanfare, a Grade 3, $150,000 race on the Tampa Bay Derby undercard has attracted an overall field with more quality than any of the ‘big’ races scheduled for March 7. I’m not kidding, the Hillsborough Stakes has come up absolutely huge. Consider the top four mares entered to battle it out in a 12-horse field for the top prize in the nine furlong turf test.

Stephanie’s Kitten is all class. She may have only one once in 2014, but the six-year-old mare was much better than her 1-of-6 season might suggest. A multiple Grade 1 winner, she took a few races to get going last year, but her last four races were top notch. She probably was unlucky not to win at least once in her back-to-back runner-up performances in the Grade 1 Diana and the Grade 1 Beverly D. The daughter of Kitten’s Joy made no mistake about who was best in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl, before heading west for trainer Chad Brown. After having had to miss the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf due to injury, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Champion returned to the World Championships with a strong late run at Santa Anita. The speedy Dayatthespa was uncatchable, but Stephanie’s Kitten ran another excellent race to finish 2nd.

Ball Dancing has only raced twice in the United States, but the Kentucky-bred, French runner made a very good impression in those two races. A solid performer overseas, the daughter of Exchange Rate made her American debut at Belmont Park in the Grade 2 Sands Point. With Jersey Joe Bravo in the irons, she closed stoutly that afternoon to blast to the lead in late stretch, and win over a solid field by a half-length. She followed that up by shipping to Keeneland for the prestigious, Grade 1 QE II Challenge Cup. She didn’t win that one, but was much the best of the rest while finishing second to Crown Queen. Also trained by Chad Brown, Ball Dancing, like each of the big four, will be making her first start of 2015 in the Hillsborough.

Filimbi meanwhile, also began her career in France, before coming to America. A winner of 6-of-13 lifetime, the five-year-old gray mare ran six times in the U.S. last year. After showing some promise in her first four starts, she turned a corner with an excellent 3rd to the soon to be Champion, Dayatthespa in the Grade 1 First Lady last October at Keeneland. Filimbi followed that up with her first graded stakes win. The occasion was the Grade 2 Goldikova Stakes at Santa Anita over Breeders’ Cup weekend. Last early, she turned on the afterburners down the lane to win going away  for trainer Bill Mott. The impressive victory four months ago was her latest start.

Sparkling Review may be the least accomplished of the quartet, but the lightly raced daughter of Lemon Drop Kid could well have the brightest future of the group. Trained by Ben Colebrook, Sparkling Review had only one race on dirt before she tried turf last summer at Arlington Park. The improvement was immediate. She dominated that maiden race, and then proceeded to do the same in a Kentucky Downs allowance, the Grade 3 Valley View Stakes at Keeneland, and the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere and the Churchill Downs. Never having run against older, and with her two stakes wins coming later in the season last year, the now four-year-old did not get much national attention, but I believe she is for real. She’s undefeated in four starts on the turf, and at four different courses. I saw each of them, and they were all impressive.


So while you are glued to all the name races on Saturday, do not forget about the race before the Tampa Bay Derby, because the Hillsborough is going to be good. 


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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