01/02/2014 2:23PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Enquete one to fear in Gasparilla

Tom Keyser
With a recent race under her belt, Enquete should be primed for the seven-furlong Gasparilla.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Tampa Bay Downs has carded solid fields of newly turned 3-year-olds in two $100,000 stakes Saturday, the Pasco and Gasparilla. Both will be run at seven furlongs.

The Gasparilla, which is slated as the ninth race on a 10-race program, is particularly interesting as it includes Enquete, a Todd Pletcher-trained filly with two wins from three career starts. Enquete, who may have designs on bigger prizes down the road, tops a field that includes several entrants with stakes experience, as well as some lightly raced runners who have flashed talent.

A number of trainers are wondering just how good Enquete might be, including Jimmy DiVito who will start Maria Maria.

“I hear Pletcher’s horse can run,” DiVito said on New Year’s Day, shortly after returning to Florida from Chicago, “but that’s the way it is, if you’re running in a stake of any size you’re most likely going to run against a Pletcher horse.”

[Tampa Bay Downs: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Maria Maria will be turning back in distance for the Gasparilla off a fifth-place finish in the $100,000 Wait a While Stakes at Gulfstream Park. DiVito said that despite Maria Maria’s pedigree, which suggests middle-distance potential, the filly’s future may be in one-turn races up to a mile.

“She’s a Curlin, so we thought she might be a two-turn type and her running style is more like a router than a sprinter, but it just looks like she’s most comfortable from six furlongs to a mile.” DiVito said. “She likes to run at horses but seems to like sprint-style pace scenarios best. I think seven furlongs suits her well.

“Now,” he added with a chuckle, “we’ve got to deal with Pletcher.”

Enquete won her first two starts by open margins at Saratoga and Gulfstream. An Indian Charlie filly, she was making her first start in almost seven weeks in the Dec. 7 Sandpiper at six furlongs. After being taken well off the early pace, she made a strong run inside but ran out of stretch and finished a fast-closing second to My Sweet Dove, who returns in the Gasparilla.

Enquete should benefit from the added furlong of Saturday’s race and also figures to be fitter having had a start.

Another interesting entrant in the Gasparilla is Nesso, the pacesetter in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, who moves back to dirt after finishing fourth, beaten just two lengths, in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park.

** The Pasco may feature a rematch between the first two finishers of the Inaugural Stakes, Cool Cowboy and Early Entry, who will face a number of other quick horses. Cool Cowboy would vie for favoritism in the Pasco with Harry’s Holiday, a two-time winner from the Michael Maker barn, but Cool Cowboy and Giancarlo, a recent maiden winner at Calder, are cross-entered in the $100,000 Spectacular Bid at Gulfstream Park, a six-furlong race.

Should Cool Cowboy ship to Gulfstream for the Spectacular Bid, Harry’s Holiday will be the horse to beat in the Pasco, and Early Entry could be his chief rival. Early Entry, trained by Kathleeen O’Connell, had to take the overland route when second in the Inaugural and was going very well at the end of that sprint, suggesting more distance will work in his favor.