03/09/2017 10:36AM

Isabella Sings tries to do her thing in Hillsborough

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Tom Keyser
Isabella Sings wins the Grade 3 Endeavour in her usual wire-to-wire style.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – There’s plenty of tactical speed Saturday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs. But only Isabella Sings, the obvious favorite in a field of 10 fillies and mares, has brazen, come-catch-me speed – a singular variable that could render all others moot.

“She’s pretty straightforward,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of the 5-year-old Siena Farm homebred. “Obviously, she’s a free-running filly, and we let her do her thing. We don’t want to get in her way; we just try to get along with her. She likes Tampa, too. She almost upset Tepin in this race last year.”

It took every bit of 1 1/8 miles for Tepin, the two-time champion turf female, to reel in Isabella Sings in the 2016 Hillsborough. Isabella Sings opened up a massive lead down the backside and nearly pulled a stunner while earning a career-high 105 Beyer Speed Figure.

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Four weeks ago here, Isabella Sings reaffirmed her fondness for the local surface when dominating the Grade 3 Endeavour under John Velazquez, who has a return call for this 19th running of the Hillsborough.

Isabella Sings was the 1-2 favorite in the Endeavour but won’t be such a short price Saturday against a more-accomplished group. Among those opponents are Dickinson and Elysea’s World, the one-two finishers in the Grade 3 Suwannee River four Saturdays ago at Gulfstream Park; Swiss Range, a Juddmonte Farms homebred making her first start in five months after a solid North American debut in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor; and My Impression, a Grade 3-winning Shug McGaughey-trained filly making her first start as a 4-year-old.

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The Hillsborough goes as race 10 (post, 4:55 p.m. Eastern) and directly precedes the featured Tampa Bay Derby on the Festival Day card.

KEY CONTENDERS

Isabella Sings, by Eskendereya

Last 3 Beyers: 97-97-102

◗ A winner of 8 of 20 starts and more than $625,000, this chestnut mare’s bold style usually puts rival horsemen in the uncomfortable dilemma of having to decide whether to press her – and thus compromise their chances – or leave her alone, which also has detrimental repercussions.

Dickinson, by Medaglia d’Oro

Last 3 Beyers: 98-96-99

◗ Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Godolphin Racing, this 5-year-old mare became a stakes winner in the Suwannee River and continues to earn Beyers to suggest that she could be a legitimate threat to Isabella Sings.