03/10/2011 3:35PM

Hillsborough Stakes tops Tampa Bay Derby undercard


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Askbut I Won’ttell has won two of her last three races in Grade 3 company and finished a fast-closing second in her most recent start, the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf. She will meet Queen Elizabeth  II Challenge Cup runner-up Zagora in Saturday’s Grade  3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Hillsborough, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares, tops the Tampa Bay Derby undercard.

Askbut I Won’ttell won four of 10 races last season, including three stakes. She rallied from off the pace to take the Grade 3 Cardinal Stakes at Churchill last fall, then won the Grade 3 My Charmer in her 2011 finale at Calder. She was beaten a half-length in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf. All three of those races were run at the same distance as the Hillsborough.

Zagora, a Group 3 winner in France for trainer Jean-Claude Roget last year, made her U.S. debut last fall in the QE II at Keeneland, rallying from last in the eight-horse field to finish second behind a strong winning effort by Harmonious.

Moved to the Chad Brown barn, Zagora has been training steadily for her first start in five months.

Carlos Marquez Jr. is slated to handle Askbut I Won’ttell for trainer Chris Block, while Ramon Dominguez is named on Zagora.

Another top contender is Keertana, who will be shortening up in distance off her Feb. 20 win in the 1 3/8-mile The Very One at Gulfstream Park. That Grade 3 victory came a month after the 5-year-old dead-heated for the win with her Tom Proctor-trained stablemate You Go West Girl in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race here.

Although the Hillsborough field is deep in talent, locally-based Box Office Queen could have a say in the outcome as she tries stakes company for the first time.

Box Office Queen has won her two allowance starts this meet in eye-catching fashion after moving to the Leigh Delacour barn.

Delacour said Wednesday Box Office Queen deserves a shot with stakes company.

“It’s a bit ambitious moving her into graded company but the opportunities for an older filly or mare on the turf this time of year are limited,” Delacour said. “She’s doing well right now, and this will be a good opportunity to see how she fits with better horses.”

Box Office Queen, a 5-year-old owned by George Krikorian, won a maiden race at Del Mar in August 2009 for trainer John Shirreffs but then was off 16 months prior to this meet. Delacour said Box Office Queen is a “diffficult” filly who was her own worst enemy at times ,resulting in a number of minor setbacks

“Her owner is a good horsemen who saw the potential in her,” Delacour said. “He gave her the time to mature and get over her issues.”

Others in the Hillsborough include Cherokee Queen, Ruling Class, Denomination, General Consensus, and It’s Tea Time

Devilish Lady

In the $75,000 Suncoast, a mile and 40-yard race for 3-year-old filles, Devilish Lady tops a full field that includes stakes winners Blue Eyed Sweetie and Wyomia, who will be making her first start since finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Devilish Lady dominated in the Sandpiper and Gasparilla Stakes here this meet before tiring to sixth in the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream.

Also entered are impressive recent maiden winners Miss Smarty Pants and Royal Delta.

◗ One-mile turf races here traditionally begin in the chute but the fifth and seventh races here Saturday will start on the main straightaway of the course.