03/06/2014 4:06PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Testa Rossi must overcome post 12 in Florida Oaks


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Testa Rossi, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last November, makes her 3-year-old debut Saturday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Florida Oaks on the Tampa Bay Derby undercard.

Tampa Bay Downs has put together a powerhouse supporting program to the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. In addition to the Oaks, the Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes and a no-condition turf allowance for 3-year-olds are scheduled.

Trained by Chad Brown, Testa Rossi drew the outside post in a field of 12 in the Florida Oaks, a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes. The outside draw shouldn’t hinder her much as she is a late-runner with little early speed.

Testa Rossi began her career in France last season by winning 3 of 5 starts. She won her U.S. debut by a nose in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park in October, rallying from last in the 11-horse field. Brought back in the one-mile Juvenile Fillies Turf, she languished in last in the 14-horse field, had some traffic problems into the stretch, but still closed for second.

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Testa Rossi, who will be ridden again by Jose Lezcano, has been training at Palm Meadows for her return to the races and completed her preparations with a sharp half-mile drill in 47.60 seconds over the Palm Meadows turf course March 3.

Brown also entered Kitten Kaboddle, who won her maiden in the Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland last fall before finishing 11th in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

While Testa Rossi will be a strong favorite Saturday, there are some other interesting entrants in the field, including Interrupted, an undefeated filly from the Graham Motion barn who will be making her 3-year-old debut Saturday. From the stakes-winning mare Alternate, Interrupted won her first two starts at Laurel last fall before being given time to develop.

Miss Besilu, a winner of two of her last three for trainer Bill Mott, is another Oaks contender. Miss Besilu finished second in the Ginger Brew Stakes on the Gulfstream Park turf in early January from a difficult outside post and in her last start won a Gulfstream turf allowance.

Babe’s Ruler is locally based with trainer Joan Scott. She left the winless ranks in impressive fashion over the local turf course two races back, then was second in the $100,000 Ocala Breeders’ Fillies Championship over the synthetic surface at Ocala Training Center last out.

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Scott is winning at a 31 percent clip at this meeting. She acknowledges the Oaks is a step up for her charge but said Babe’s Ruler has the talent to be a graded-stakes-level performer.

“She’s a classy-looking filly who is light on her feet and she’s a willing worker in the morning,” Scott said. “She hasn’t done too much wrong since we’ve been here this winter and while this will be her stiffest test yet we’re hopeful she’ll show she fits at this level.”

Ready’s Legend will be making her 3-year-old debut in the Oaks for Todd Pletcher after winning her final two starts last fall on the turf.

Risposte seeks cleaner trip in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough, a nine-furlong turf race for fillies and mares, drew a strong field topped by Riposte, who finished a troubled second in the Grade 3 Suwannee River Stakes at Gulfstream Park last time out while making her U.S. debut.

Riposte is owned and bred by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Mott. She won two of six races in England and Ireland, including the Grade 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Ascot last June. In the Suwannee River, she was boxed in to the stretch before finishing willingly to be second behind Parranda, who has won five of her last six starts.

Cloud Scapes is undefeated at Tampa in two starts since returning from a year layoff. She won the Grade 3 Endeavour here last out with a powerful stretch kick.

The late-running E B Ryder, trained by Marty Wolfson, was second in the Sunshine Millions Fillies and Mare Turf in her last start.

** Bobby’s Kitten, the beaten favorite when third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall, will make his 3-year-old bow when he takes on Grade 3 winner Global View in the sixth race, a no-conditions allowance over the Tampa turf course.