Hillsborough Stakes Odds & Challenger Stakes Picks

The three-year-old colts and fillies are discussed elsewhere, but there are also two fascinating contests for older horses at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. Chad Brown goes mob-handed to the G2 Hillsborough Stakes with G1 winners Shantisara and Rougir leading the way, while last year’s Triple Crown series contenders Skippylongstocking and Classic Causeway bid to reignite their stuttering careers in the G3 Challenger.

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Hillsborough Stakes

G2, $225,000, 1m 1f turf, 4yo+ females, 4.04pm ET

In a taste of things to come for the rest of the year, Chad Brown goes loaded to a distaff race on the lawn, sending three for the Hillsborough, the highlight for older horses at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday.

Brown’s deep, deep barn of fillies and mares means that they almost always end up taking each other on, and choosing between them is not necessarily straightforward. Jockey bookings and the morning line suggest that Shantisara (2-1) is the chosen one, and her reappearance after a short-lived 2022 campaign suggested that she retains all her ability.

She finished her race off strongly in the G3 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park over a mile-sixteenth, surging into the runner-up spot, and with that run under her belt and the extra yardage in her favour, her chance is obvious.

Brown’s second-string Rougir (7-2) was largely disappointing last year, although she did take down the G1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine over ten furlongs, a late dash getting her home by a neck. She had Lasix then and has it again, which may be a factor. A softer track would help but she isn’t the most reliable proposition.

Her barnmate Kalifornia Queen (10-1) is zero-for-seven in stakes in the US but usually hits the board and could do so again, although she was beaten a long way when third in the mile and three-eighths G3 Long Island at Aqueduct on her second and final start last year.

The winner that day was Temple City Terror (6-1), who ran hard through the stretch and got it done by a comfortable length and a half. It was a continuation of her fine fall form that also saw her take the G3 Dowager at Keeneland over a mile and a half, and there’s no doubt that she’s better going long. First time back, though, this shorter distance may suit. Check out the 2023 Dowager Stakes Odds & Racing Picks.

Surprisingly (5-1) and Scotish Star (6-1) have already shown themselves at Tampa Bay this year, filling the exacta in the G3 Endeavour over a mile-sixteenth. Scotish Star seemed to have the race in the bag until Surprisingly ran her down in the closing stages to win by a neck, making her stakes breakthrough on her Graded debut.

The slow-burning Surprisingly should move up plenty with that behind her and it was a career-best for Scotish Star too, so she has to enter calculations.

A nine-month layoff is a negative for Gam’s Mission (6-1), last seen when finishing off strongly to win the G3 Mint Julep at Churchill Downs over a mile-sixteenth. That was a career-best but this looks a tough spot to make a comeback.

Hillsborough Stakes Odds & Betting Prediction

Her fine effort last time suggests SHANTISARA is coming back to her best after a washout 2022, and this G1 winner from a powerful barn can make her class edge count.

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Kalifornia Queen (GER)Edgard J. Zayas+1000
SurprisinglyPaco Lopez+500
Temple City TerrorAntonio A. Gallardo+600
Rougir (FR)Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr.+350
Gam’s MissionJulien R. Leparoux+600
Shantisara (IRE)Irad Ortiz, Jr.+200
Scotish Star (ARG)Luis Saez+600

Challenger Stakes

G3, $100,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 4yo+, 3.33pm ET

Wind the clock back a year and the same characters are acting out a different story. They coulda been contenders, but now they find themselves in the low-key Challenger bidding to kick-start careers that are in danger of running out of gas.

A year ago to the day Classic Causeway (9-2) was on the crest of the wave, setting himself up for the Kentucky Derby with a dominant, gate-to-wire victory in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby over course and distance. But it all went sour after that, and even though he was reinvented as a turf runner, winning the G1 Belmont Derby in July, his form tailed off badly by the end of the year.

Now back on the main track, he must have some sort of shot at redemption at a track where he’s two-for-two, especially if he can get his own way on the lead.

Back in fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby at boxcar odds was Trademark (6-1), who then trailed through the wilderness until finding some relief at the end of the year, signing off by making his stakes breakthrough with a four-length score in the G3 Commonwealth Turf (on the main track) over a mile-sixteenth at Churchill Downs in November. If he has matured well from three to four, there may be more to come.

This time last year Skippylongstocking (8-5) was building up for fair performances in the Preakness and Belmont, but he didn’t really get his name in lights until running out a comfortable winner of the G3 Harlan’s Holiday over this distance at Gulfstream Park on New Year’s Eve.

That took him to the G1 Pegasus World Cup at the same venue as fifth-choice, but he played no part and was beaten ten lengths into seventh. Consistency is an issue, but this is his level and it’s substantial class relief. His barnmate The Reds (12-1) is zero-for-five in Graded stakes and was beaten out of sight in the G3 Fred W Hooper at Gulfstream last time.

The one-eyed Mighty Heart (15-1), the 2020 Canadian Horse of the Year, ran an absolute stinker when last of 12 in the G3 Tampa Bay over course and distance on turf and should appreciate the return to the main track, although he’s a shadow of the horse he once was, while Surly Furious (15-1) has never won away from Presque Isle Downs and doesn’t appeal to break that streak.

Business Model (6-1) finished a no-show sixth on his only run in a stakes, and Tax (4-1) is on a downward spiral – although his recent blowout came on turf – and may not be able to pull out of it at the age of seven. His morning-line odds seem way out of line.

Challenger Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

Skippylongstocking is the right favourite but first time back may be the best time to catch CLASSIC CAUSEWAY, whose front-running tactics could be decisive.

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
TrademarkMartin Garcia+600
SkippylongstockingIrad Ortiz, Jr.+160
Mighty HeartKevah Nicholls+1500
Classic CausewayJulien R. Leparoux+450
Surly FuriousRonald Dale Allen, Jr.+1500
The RedsEdgard J. Zayas+1200
TaxPaco Lopez+400
Business ModelLuis Saez+600
Brooklyn StrongSamy Camacho+3000

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