OLDSMAR, FL – Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and Gary Aisquith’s Fourstar Crook commenced a strong rally down the length of the stretch to nail Proctor’s Ledge at the wire and win Saturday’s Grade 2, $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Breaking from post 3 under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Fourstar Crook settled off the pace along the inside early while Dynatail led through splits of :24.26, :49.45, and 1:13.14. Commencing her bid through the far turn, Fourstar Crook hit the top of the stretch still 3 1/2 lengths off of newly-in-the-lead Proctor’s Ledge but under a full drive. Surging late along the outside of Proctor’s Ledge (ridden by Irad’s brother, Jose), Fourstar Crook was able to get up just in time, hitting the wire by a head in a final time of 1:48.43 for the 9-furlong turf event.
“She broke so good, and I just stayed on the rail to save all the ground I could because I knew I had to have a good trip to beat this field,” said Ortiz, Jr. “She is getting better and better every time. I just saved ground, and when I tipped her out, she gave me a good kick in the end. When we got to the 1/8-pole, I didn’t know if we were going to get there, but I just kept riding my horse hard, and she got the job done.”
La Coronel‘s inside trip throughout wasn’t enough to overcome the top two and she finished 3/4 of a length behind in third and a nose past Daddys Lil Darling. Fifth went to the post-time favorite Off Limits, with Tricky Escape, Bonita, Lovely Bernadette, Lovely Loyree, and Dynatail completing the order of finish.
Fourstar Crook’s win was her 10th in 15 career starts and second career graded score, following last year’s Grade 3 Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes at Laurel Park. The 6-year-old daughter of Freud now has career earnings of $813,166 for trainer Chad Brown.
“She prefers firm turf, so I thought that was a good effort,” Brown said. “She’s a good mare and very consistent. She ran terrific today.”
Fourstar Crook returned $9.80 to win, $5.40 to place, and $3.80 to show. Proctor’s Ledge brought back $7.80 to place and $5.20 to show, while La Coronel paid $3.60 to show.