Trainer Chad Brown sent out exactas in both graded turf stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. After Bleecker Street extended her unbeaten sequence in the Hillsborough (G2) over Rocky Sky, Dolce Zel collared stablemate Spicer in the Florida Oaks (G3). Shug McGaughey took the Challenger (G3) with his second-fancied runner, Scalding.
While owner Peter Brant is in Hungary assisting with a relief mission for refugees from Putin’s horrific war on Ukraine, his stable continues to hum along back home. Not only did Bleecker Street remain undefeated in the $200,000 Hillsborough, but fellow Brant colorbearer Rocky Sky rounded out the exacta.
Patiently handled by regular rider Hector Diaz, the 2.40-1 favorite was reserved well off the pace in seventh. Up front, the 11.50-1 Gladys carved out splits of :23.20, :46.80, and 1:11.46 on the good course, tracked by Lady Speightspeare with Rocky Sky traveling smartly in third. As Lady Speightspeare came under a ride on the far turn, Rocky Sky advanced and appeared poised to pounce entering the stretch.
But Bleecker Street’s turn of foot was decisive. Exploding past Rocky Sky and Gladys, the daughter of Quality Road streaked 3 3/4 lengths clear and finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.21.
Rocky Sky eventually wore down Gladys by three-quarters of a length for second. The same margin away in fourth was Lady Speightspeare. There was a 5 3/4-length gap back to fifth-placer Lovely Lucky, followed by Runaway Rumour, Jezebel’s Kitten, Take Charge Ro, and Nantucket Rud.
Bleecker Street has won three straight at Tampa after capturing her Monmouth Park debut last summer and a Meadowlands allowance. Now 5-for-5 with earnings of $285,900, the gray scored her first stakes win in the Feb. 5 Endeavour (G3).
Bred by Branch Equine in Kentucky and purchased for $400,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling, Bleecker Street is out of the stakes-placed Exchange Rate mare Lemon Liqueur. The four-year-old hails from the family of Grade 1 turfiste Gabriel Charles, and she looks bound for that level herself.
The $100,000 Challenger (G3) marked the return of two high-profile campaigners from last year’s Triple Crown trail, Greatest Honour and Dynamic One. But a couple of up-and-coming four-year-olds stole the show in their stakes debuts. Scalding, a stablemate of Greatest Honour from the McGaughey barn, continued his upward ascent by fending off Cody’s Wish in the 1 1/16-mile affair on the main track.
Campaigned by Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stable, and LNJ Foxwoods, Scalding broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park Jan. 5 and romped in an allowance at this track and distance Feb. 11. The Nyquist colt worked out a similar trip here with a returning Javier Castellano.
The 5.30-1 Scalding was settled in third as Wolfie’s Dynaghost opened up through a quarter in :23.53 on the good track. Improving into second at the half in :48.14, Scalding engaged the leader by the time he reached six furlongs in 1:12.89. As they battled into the lane, 2.10-1 favorite Cody’s Wish ranged up on the outside to make it three abreast. But Scalding pulled out a bit extra to prevail in 1:43.53 and paid $12.60.
Dynamic One was along for third, another 2 1/4 lengths astern, in an effort that should bring him on for longer targets. Next came Mischief Afoot; Wolfie’s Dynaghost; a lackluster Greatest Honour, who was fourth before fading; and Tune In. Shirl’s Speight, Hidden Stash, and War Stopper were all scratched.
Scalding’s scorecard stands at 5-3-1-0, $124,800. The dark bay was bred by Godolphin and Cobalt Investments in Kentucky and sold for $400,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga. He is the third stakes performer produced by the Medaglia d’Oro mare Hot Water, after Grade 3-placed stakes winner Tracksmith and stakes-placed Tortuga. Scalding’s third dam is Hall of Fame sprinter Xtra Heat.
Florida Oaks (G3)
French import Dolce Zel made a winning U.S. debut for Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, and Robert V. LaPenta in the $151,000 Florida Oaks. A Longchamp maiden winner when last seen Oct. 14, the 3-1 second choice enjoyed a textbook passage courtesy of Irad Ortiz.
Her favored stablemate, the 2.20-1 Spicer, matched strides with longshot Princess Elin through an initial fraction in :24.19. Then Spicer let her 72-1 rival go forward, preferring to camp in second through the half in :49.56 before reasserting at the six-furlong mark in 1:14.47. Meanwhile, Dolce Zel was drafting in their wake on the rail.
Spicer aimed to put the race away when quickening for home, but Dolce Zel had the gears to reel her in. Full of run once into the clear, the bay got up by a head in a final time of 1:44.18 for 1 1/16 miles. Irad was beating brother Jose Ortiz on the near-miss second.
On Alert was an eye-catching third, as she closed from last in a race shape that was all against her. Mrs. Barbara, Sweet Dutchess, Alittleloveandluck, Roughly a Diamond, Princess Elin, and Ambitieuse concluded the order under the wire.
Dolce Zel has bankrolled $105,677 from her 3-2-0-0 line. Her loss came in a July 26 newcomers’ race at Dieppe, where she retreated to 14th in a 15-horse field. She was a different horse resuming at Longchamp last fall for A. and G. Botti, punching her ticket stateside.
From the first crop of Group 1-winning miler Zelzal, a son of Sea the Stars, Dolce Zel is a half-sister to Group 2-placed stakes vixen Pure Zen. They are out of the Dr Fong mare Dolce Attesa, from the further family of Grade 1 winner Rigoletta (dam of 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile [G1] star Battle of Midway) and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) champion Musical Romance.
Brown didn’t have a runner in the $75,000 Columbia S., the one-mile turf stakes for three-year-olds over a mile. Irad Ortiz picked up the mount on the 4.30-1 Heaven Street, who was making his sophomore debut for new trainer Christophe Clement, and guided him to a one-length decision. Stalking a pair of longshots through tepid fractions, the Siena Farms and Asmussenequine.com runner drove ahead in the stretch and clocked 1:37.78.
Bens Malice kept on well for second, and Fort Washington was a belatedly-rallying third. The slight 2.30-1 favorite, Kitten Mischief, was a non-threatening sixth of nine.
Heaven Street was trained by Steve Asmussen during his juvenile campaign. The Street Sense colt sports a mark of 7-3-0-1, reflecting a third in the Soaring Free S. at Woodbine. He had not raced since winding up 12th in the Bourbon (G2) at Keeneland.