Both of Tampa Bay’s graded turf stakes on Saturday went to fillies coming out of key races in their divisions. Micheline, last seen finishing third in Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1), made a winning reappearance in the $200,000 Hillsborough S. (G2). Sophomore Domain Expertise, third in the Jan. 23 Sweetest Chant (G3) at Gulfstream Park, nailed Jouster in a $152,500 Florida Oaks (G3) thriller.
Godolphin’s homebred Micheline ranked as the 9-2 third choice, with 3.40-1 favoritism going to Magic Attitude, herself third in the QEII, and Counterparty Risk dispatched as the 4-1 second pick. Those rivals ended up not landing a blow from their inside posts, while Micheline worked out the right trip from the far outside post 11.
As Myhartblongstodady carved out steady splits of :24.23 and :48.80 on the firm turf, Luis Saez had Micheline well placed in a stalking fourth. The Michael Stidham trainee crept into third at the six-furlong mark in 1:12.41, and had dead aim when Morning Molly took over from Myhartblongstodady in upper stretch. Micheline hit top gear inside the final furlong and prevailed by three-quarters of a length, covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.19.
Morning Molly retained the runner-up spot by a head from the onrushing closers. New York Girl grabbed third, a neck up on the dead-heating duo of La Signare and Miss Teheran in fourth. Counterparty Risk came next in sixth, having physical room on the rail if not in the psychologically most comfortable place. Magic Attitude was beaten all of 1 3/4 lengths in seventh, followed by How Ironic, Court Return, and Myhartblongstodady. The main-track-only Queen Nekia stayed in the barn.
Micheline’s first graded coup advanced her record to 13-5-2-1, $665,978. A course record-setting winner of the Dueling Grounds Oaks, the daughter of Bernardini also captured last season’s Honey Ryder and the 2019 Sorority as a juvenile.
The four-year-old is a half-sister to current Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Proxy, her Stidham stablemate by Tapit, who has placed second in both the Risen Star (G2) and Lecomte (G3). Both are out of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Panty Raid (by Include), a full sister to Grade 2 vixen St. John’s River.
Saez was bidding for a sweep of the turf stakes on the card aboard Jouster. For most of the way, her trip was reminiscent of Winfromwithin’s in the $75,000 Columbia S. Also trained by Todd Pletcher like Jouster, 17-10 favorite Winfromwithin led at every call for Saez, drew off by four lengths, and set a new course record for a mile in 1:33.72.
Jouster, an even shorter favorite in the Florida Oaks at 7-10, was in her element winging it through fractions of :22.98, :47.60, 1:11.10, and 1:34.83. Still three lengths clear in midstretch, she had just one single pursuer who had separated from the pack – Klaravich Stables’ Domain Expertise. The Chad Brown filly leveled off with intent, gained fast, and denied the favorite by a nose on the wire. Under Antonio Gallardo, the 5-1 Domain Expertise negotiated 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.12.
Oyster Box made late headway for third, another 2 1/2 lengths astern, and Mia Martina, a fellow Graham Motion pupil, closed from last to take fourth. Queen of the Green was a traffic-heavy fifth. Be Sneaky, Flight to Shanghai, Forever Boss, early stalker Big Band Luzziann, and Alex’s First concluded the order of finish. The main-track-only Big Bad Diva was withdrawn as well as Hindsight, who opted for Sunday’s 2ND race at Tampa.
Domain Expertise is a Kitten’s Joy half-sister to Sombeyay, a graded winner on both dirt (in the 2018 Sanford [G3]) and turf (in the 2020 Canadian Turf [G3]). They are out of the multiple stakes-placed Limehouse mare Teroda.
Bred by J.D. Stuart, Mueller Farms Inc., and Ken and Sarah Ramsey in Kentucky, Domain Expertise sold for $200,000 as a Keeneland November weanling. The chestnut has compiled a mark of 5-2-1-1, $125,700, racing exclusively in turf routes. Second on debut at Saratoga, Domain Expertise trailed the Selima at a yielding Pimlico but rebounded to break her maiden handsomely at this course and distance Dec. 5. She did her best work late when third in the Sweetest Chant to White Frost and Con Lima, who came back to receive last Saturday’s Herecomesthebride (G3) via disqualification.