01/29/2015 3:54PM

Testa Rossi set for 2015 debut in Endeavour Stakes

Tom Keyser
Testa Rossi wins the 2014 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Testa Rossi kicked off her 2014 campaign with a decisive win over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks, and her connections are hoping she will follow suit in her 2015 debut as the French-bred star tops a solid field of 14 older fillies and mares entered in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

The Endeavour and the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies are part of a strong undercard for Festival Preview Day, as the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes tops a 12-race program.

Testa Rossi was purchased by her present connections and brought to the United States after winning three of her first five starts in her native France. After taking the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes in her U.S. debut, Testa Rossi came from last in a 14-horse field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and wound up second in the race won by Chriselliam.

Trainer Chad Brown chose the Florida Oaks for Testa Rossi’s first start at 3, and the long-striding filly had little trouble outclassing the field in that 1 1/16-mile tilt, rallying from off the pace for an impressive 3 1/2-length victory.

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After sustaining a minor injury in a fourth-place finish over Polytrack at Keeneland as the favorite in the Grade 1 Ashland, Testa Rossi was off from April until November, when she failed to threaten in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere over the Churchill Downs turf course.

Testa Rossi has posted a series of black-letter works over the turf course at Palm Meadows for this return, and Irad Ortiz Jr. replaces Jose Lezcano aboard the Brown runner.

The multiple graded stakes winner I’m Already Sexy is another in the field making her 2015 debut, and the Wayne Catalano trainee brings a strong speed element to the race.

Rosalind moves to the Brown barn for her first start since October and has blinkers back on for Saturday’s race. The filly finished in a dead heat for the win in the aforementioned Ashland and was a fast-closing third in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to be beaten a half-length.

Hard Not to Like makes her first start for trainer Christophe Clement, and the 6-year-old mare, who counted the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes among her two wins from as many 2014 starts, also deserves a long look.

Irish Jasper, a winner of 3 of 4 races lifetime, including a late-running tally in the Gasparilla Stakes over the local strip last time out, tops an overflow field of 11 in the Suncoast at a mile and 40 yards.

The Derek Ryan trainee tries a middle distance for the first time while facing the likes of Holywell, a stakes winner around two turns in the $358,000 Susan’s Girl Stakes at Gulfstream who makes her first start since late November, and Huasca, second to Irish Jasper in the Gasparilla.

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Testa Rossi (Last 3 Beyers: 82-75-84)

◗ She looms as the class of this field and already has shown a fondness for the local surface.

◗ A series of dazzling morning works suggests she’ll come out running in her 2015 debut.

Principessa Ava (Last 3 Beyers: 86-84-77)

◗ She is part of a group that looks fairly evenly matched under Testa Rossi.

◗ She has improved steadily for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. Her price certainly will be attractive.

Hard Not to Like (Last 3 Beyers: 94-94-85)

◗ When she runs, she runs hard and keeps top company.

◗ She moves to the Clement barn, which has scored at 23 percent in 2014-15 with horses making their first start for the trainer.


Holywell (Last 3 Beyers: 70-60-69)

◗ She has won around two turns, a big plus for these young, developing fillies. She has been training on a steady schedule since being given a short break.

Whimsicality (Beyer: 71)

◗ She earned a solid 71 Beyer Speed Figure in her debut win, running down rivals through the long Laurel Park stretch.

◗ Her dam was a graded stakes winner.

Irish Jasper (Last 3 Beyers: 77-64-68)

◗ She has a running style that should fit well around two turns.

◗ She has been training for several months over the local surface, always a plus.