Marty McGee | Mar 04, 2021
OLDSMAR, Fla. – Tampa Bay Downs has gotten fairly lucky this winter in regard to its turf course. Weather related cancellations have been infrequent – a washed-out Feb. 19-21 weekend being a notable exception – as horsemen both here and across the Florida peninsula continue to praise the Tampa turf for its composition and consistency.
The subject is germane in light of weather predictions for a 12-race Festival Day card, the biggest of the five-month 2020-21 meet. Rain is in the forecast, but you’d have to think it would take a substantial soaking to force the Grade 3 Florida Oaks and Grade 2 Hillsborough to the main track. Those fixtures for female turf specialists both drew terrific lineups and are foremost among the Saturday attractions leading into the featured Tampa Bay Derby.
Hillsborough (race 9)
Brown has one of the top contenders in Counterparty Risk, one of 11 fillies and mares (including one main-track-only entrant) in the $200,000 Hillsborough, which goes at 1 1/8 miles. It was four weeks ago, on the Sam Davis undercard, that Counterparty Risk was making her graded debut when taking the Grade 3 Endeavour as an odds-on choice, and there will be plenty of tote support for her to further build on that effort. Antonio Gallardo gets the call from Brown on the Irish-bred 4-year-old.
The competition is much deeper, however, than in the Endeavour. Making their first start since finishing second and third, respectively, in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last fall are Micheline and Magic Attitude, while the Endeavour runner-up, New York Girl, also returns from Payson Park for Bill Mott.
Micheline, a Godolphin homebred, won two stakes last year, including the Dueling Grounds Oaks.
“We gave her a short freshening after the QE II, and she’s been training nicely since coming back to us at Tampa,” said her trainer, Mike Stidham. “This is the first step in what hopefully will be a highly successful 4-year-old campaign.”
Magic Attitude, trained locally by Arnaud Delacour, has an eye-catching set of past performances. In her first start following a private purchase by the Lael Stables, she won the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks in her stateside debut, then was third when favored in the QE II. The British-bred filly shows a steady work slate in recent weeks.
Outside possibilities in this 23rd Hillsborough include the standout New York-bred, Myhartblongstodady, and a late-running Brendan Walsh trainee, La Signare.