03/12/2012 11:16AM

Tampa Bay: Zagora delivers star performance in Hillsborough

Tom Cooley Photography
Zagora earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure for her win in the Grade 3 Hillsborough.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – While there were some quality runners on last Saturday’s program at Tampa Bay Downs and some strong individual performances there’s little question the star of Festival Day was Zagora, who gets more impressive with each passing race.

The French-bred Zagora made her second start of 2012 in the Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes and despite floating a bit wide out of the final turn, ripped down the middle of the Tampa turf course in full flight through the final three-sixteenths of a mile to roll past Federation and Unbridled Humor for her second straight local stakes win.

It was a breathtaking effort, as the numbers bear out. Zagora went from the six furlongs to the mile in 23.76 seconds and this was while making up ground outside, then roared through the final furlong in 11.64 to cover the nine furlongs in 1:46.97, less than a second off the track record of 1:46.34, which has stood for 11 years. The 5-year-old Zagora was awarded a 95 Beyer Speed Figure.

In seven U.S. starts, Zagora has never run posted a Beyer lower than 90.

Her trainer, Chad Brown, noted that she is older and stronger this season and was able to overcome being hung outside through much of the Hillsborough.

“Last year that kind of trip may have cost her a win, now she can overcome it,” Brown said.

Federation, who tried to stay with the winner into the final furlong, and Unbridled Humor, who carried a clear lead into the late stages, turned in efforts that on another day might have been good enough to win.

Brown, who handles talking about Zagora’s future like a Texas hold ‘em player with pocket aces before the flop, would only say that the Hillsborough took a bit more out of Zagora than her win in the Endeavour and the connections would discuss future plans with the overall goal being a defense of the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga.

Another stakes win for Pletcher

Todd Pletcher horses all seem to come home strong, and such was the case in the $100,000 Suncoast. Pletcher’s favored Wait Til Dawn overcame running up on rivals’ heels leaving the second turn, and then found room outside in the drive to run down Ciguaraya for her second straight win.

Melrose Woods, who led into the stretch in her first stakes start after shipping from the West Coast, looks like a filly with potential, while local hope Mercy Lou lost all chance when she stumbled badly leaving the gate. Trainer Gerald Bennett said Mercy Lou escaped injury in the incident.

Action Andy breaks track record

Action Andy continued his love affair with the Tampa main track on Saturday when he ran down a stubborn Tommy’s Memory in the late stages for a track-record win in a 6 1/2-furlong overnight handicap.

Action Andy covered the distanced in 1:15.47, eclipsing the old mark set of 1:16.04 set by White Merlot on Feb. 25. The win followed tallies in the Pelican and Super stakes for the Carlos Garcia-trained Action Andy.

◗ The hottest trainer on the grounds of late (yes, even hotter than Jamie Ness) has been Bernell Rhone. Rhone has sent out 9 winners from his last 19 starters for a sizzling win percentage of 47.