Tampa Bay Downs Communications March 4, 2021 9:44am
Early last year, Tampa Bay Downs trainer Arnaud Delacour received rave reviews about Magic Attitude, a regally bred filly who at the time was preparing to make her first 3-year-old start in the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux at Longchamp in Paris.
The daughter of renowned sire Galileo, out of Group I-winning Margot Did, did not disappoint, notching her first stakes score by 2 lengths. Soon after, owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson purchased Magic Attitude privately on Delacour’s recommendation, with the intention of sending her to the conditioner’s stable in the U.S. to compete under their Lael Stables banner.
What transpired was indeed magical: a Grade 1 victory in her first North American start on Sept. 19 in the Belmont Oaks Invitational on the grass.
On Saturday, a freshened, more mature filly will try to launch an even better 4-year-old campaign in the Grade 2, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes at a 1 1/8 mileseighth on the Oldsmar turf course.
The Hillsborough is one of five stakes on Saturday’s $1 million Festival Day 41 card, led by the Grade 2, $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) for 3-year-old Triple Crown hopefuls.
Magic Attitude is one of two Lael Stables-owned and Delacour-trained fillies set to compete on Festival Day 41. The other, a 3-year-old filly Be Sneaky, will make her turf debut in the $200,000 Florida Oaks (G3) at 1 1/16 miles.
Entries were taken and post positions drawn Wednesday for all five of Saturday’s stakes races.
Delacour says Magic Attitude, who will be ridden for the first time by Julien Leparoux, is approaching the Hillsborough in top condition. “She breezed a half-mile Tuesday (in 49 3/5 seconds), and I’m very happy how she came out of the work,” Delacour said. “We’re excited about running her Saturday, but we still have to play it by ear because she is better on firmer turf (there is a possibility of rain Saturday).”
After racing twice against Group 1 competition under the Jackson colors in France while trained by Fabrice Chappet, with a second-place finish in the Prix Saint-Alary, Magic Attitude arrived in Delacour’s barn in late July. The timing couldn’t have been better: the Belmont Oaks Invitational, normally run in July, had been pushed back to Sept. 19 because of COVID, giving the conditioner time to sharpen Magic Attitude’s edge.
After trailing early, the Great Britain-bred Magic Attitude took off in the stretch, sweeping to victory against her four rivals under Javier Castellano to earn the coveted Grade 1 victory — the third of Delacour’s career and his first for the Jacksons. Magic Attitude followed that up with a strong third-place performance in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G1), also for 3-year-old fillies, on Oct. 10 on good turf at Keeneland.
Magic Attitude received a well-deserved rest before Delacour returned her to training in mid-December at Classic Mile Park in Ocala, where she got in a couple of breezes on Classic Mile’s turf before shipping to Tampa Bay Downs in mid-February.
Delacour can’t be sure how Magic Attitude will respond to running against older horses for the first time, but he is optimistic. “She needs to step up, but I think she’ll be ready,” he said. “She has an explosive turn of foot and great acceleration for about a 16th of a mile, which you like to see from a turf filly.”
Florida Oaks entrant Be Sneaky is a homebred for the Jacksons, by top U.S. sire Into Mischief out of their turf stakes-winning mare Bella Castani. Yet to race on grass, Be Sneaky is 1-for-3, with a second-place finish here in the Suncoast Stakes on Feb. 6 in her most recent start.
Hector Diaz Jr. will ride Be Sneaky.
“We’ve always had it in the back of our minds to run this filly on the turf, but at this stage, it’s a guessing game,” Delacour said. “She was a little aggressive (in the Suncoast), and we hope she can settle better on the grass and track the speed rather than setting the pace.”
The 45-year-old Delacour was successful switching surfaces at Tampa Bay Downs last year with another Lael Stables homebred, (then)-5-year-old mare Jehozacat. After winning the Wayward Lass Stakes on dirt, she returned three weeks later to win the Endeavour (G3) on the grass.
Delacour is seeking his first triumphs in both the Hillsborough and Florida Oaks, but his record of achievement with Lael Stables horses is enviable. He has trained such homebred standouts for the Jacksons as Jehozacat and Grade 3 winners Divining Rod and No Dozing, as well as Grade 2 winner Hawksmoor, also the 2019 Lambholm South Endeavour winner; 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint runner-up Chalon; and multiple-Grade 3 winner Ageless.
“I’m very privileged to train for the Jacksons because of the quality of their stock and their confidence in our training program,” said Delacour, who has been with the couple almost 10 years. “They are great ambassadors for our sport, and they have put together a wonderful team of people that works together for one common goal.
“They take a progressive, step-by-step approach and never rush their horses. It doesn’t matter what kind of race you’re shooting for — you’re trying to get them fit enough to compete, move on and use the race as a stepping stone for the rest of the season.”