03/17/2007 12:00AM

Cotton Blossom wins '07 debut


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Cotton Blossom, who was at or near the top of her division throughout her 2-year-old campaign last year, gave every indication she may be ready for even bigger things at 3 after rallying to a two-length victory over the 69-1 Suaveness in Saturday's $200,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs.

Cotton Blossom ($4), a daughter of Broken Vow, entered the 1 1/16-mile Florida Oaks unraced since finishing third behind division champion Dreaming of Anna in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in November. But the layoff proved no obstacle for the multiple Grade 1 stakes-placed filly who stalked the early pace while racing three wide under jockey John Velazquez before asserting her superiority and edging well clear once settling into the stretch.

Suaveness rallied from near the rear of the pack to finish second, one length before Maria's Kitty.

Autobahn Girl, an impressive winner of the Suncoast Stakes here four weeks earlier, raced wide throughout and finished fourth in a field of eight 3-year-old fillies.

The win was the third in six career starts for Cotton Blossom, who won the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes and was second in the Grade 1 Spinaway before finishing less than three lengths behind Dreaming of Anna despite a wide trip in the Juvenile Fillies.

"She had a hard campaign at 2, so we just decided to send her to Aiken and freshen her up after the Breeders' Cup," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Cotton Blossom for Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable. "She returned to me in December and came into this race off a couple of very good six-furlong works.

"Naturally, you're always concerned whether your horse will be tight enough when going a mile and one-sixteenth off a four and one-half month layoff, especially over a demanding surface like this one. So all and all I thought she ran a very good race today."

Pletcher said he was using the Florida Oaks as a prep for the Gradeo1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4.

"She's a big, scopey filly who we always thought would improve with distance," said Pletcher. "I thought she ran a huge race in the Breeders' Cup, especially considering she was parked wide and running against the bias of the racetrack that day. I might consider running her back either in the Ashland or the Fantasy, although it's very possible she could go directly into the Oaks off this race."

Hillsborough: Cassydora leads way

Pletcher and Velazquez came right back 30 minutes later to register another popular victory with Cassydora in the Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes for older fillies and mares.

Cassydora ($4.80) led throughout before gradually edging away to a 1 3/4-length victory over My Typhoon. Masseuse finished a tiring third after prompting the pace throughout.

The win was the third in a row for Cassydora, 5, an English-bred daughter of Darshaan, and second straight over the local course. She also won the Endeavour Breeders' Cup Stakes in similar wire-to-wire fashion on Feb. 17. She is owned by Green Hills Farm.

My Typhoon ran big in defeat after chasing the winner for much of the trip. The start was her first since finishing a tiring sixth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Turf Dash: Lookinforthesecret rolls

Lookinforthesecret, claimed for $12,500 earlier in the meet by trainer Jamie Ness for his Ness Racing Stable, continued to return big dividends after topping a strong field of sprint specialists in the $75,000 Turf Dash. Lookinforthesecret led throughout under jockey Daniel Centeno to register a 1 1/4-length win over Mr. Silver. The winner paid $13.

The Nth Degree rallied belatedly to be third. Steel the Glory, the 2-1 favorite, finished a wide running fifth.

The win was the fourth in the last five starts for Lookinforthesecret, whose only setback was a half-length loss to Dirtymoposse under allowance conditions 16 days earlier.