Multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown is no stranger to training top turf girls, having fostered grass champions such as Sister Charlie, Lady Eli and Rushing Fall over the last five years.
He may have another top prospect in his arsenal with Peter Brant’s Bleecker Street after her powerful late-running victory over stablemate Rocky Sky in the March 12 $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes (G2T) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Brown has taken a patient approach with the 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road who didn’t make her race debut until acing a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden special weight last August at Monmouth Park. This year, the iron-gray filly has flourished over the Tampa Bay turf, capturing the Endeavor Stakes (G3T) in her first stakes try last month with an impressive closing kick to remain undefeated entering Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile turf contest.
Despite the deluge of rain that showered upon Tampa Friday night and Saturday morning, windy conditions dried the turf enough to be rated “good.”
Bleecker Street, piloted by Hector Diaz Jr., who has been aboard Bleecker Street in every one of her starts and fondly refers to her as his “Queen”, broke third to last and settled into a comfortable position along the inside well off the early calm. On the front end, Gladys a full sister to the brilliant Rachel Alexandra cruised through quick opening splits of :23.20 and :46.80 with grade 1-winner Lady Speightsphere perched on her flank.
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Gladys clung to her lead past six furlongs in 1:11.46 as Lady Speightsphere gave way around the turn and fellow Brown trainee Rocky Sky rolled up to challenge for command with a quarter-mile to run. Bleecker Street, turning widest of all into the lane, bore down on the leaders, powering past the dueling Rocky Sky and Gladys in the final furlong and drawing away by 3 3/4 length. Rocky Sky, also trained by Brown for Brant, edged Gladys for second by three-quarters of a length.
“We’re really happy about the 1-2 finish with Bleecker Street and Rocky Sky,” said Brown. “(Bleecker Street) really ran well. We were on the fence about sending her because I wasn’t that confident how she would handle soft turf, but by the time we loaded them from Payson Park this morning it looked like the rain was moving through quicker than had been forecast and the wind might dry out the course. She really loves Tampa, so we decided to give it a shot. She was super impressive and handled the give in the ground well. It certainly looked like the added distance didn ‘t bother her, so hopefully she can keep stepping up.”
Bleecker Street ($6.80) was timed in 1:48.21 in her first attempt running beyond 1 1/16 miles.
“She’s an amazing horse. She’s the best filly I’ve ever ridden,” said Diaz. “The course was softer than she likes. That tells me how good she is. She can overcome any type of situation. When you ask her, she’s going to respond. That’s what separates the good horses from the great horses. The sky is the limit with her.”
Bred in Kentucky by Branch Equine, Bleecker Street is the second foal out of the stakes-placed Exchange rate pond Lemon Liqueur . Bleecker Street sold for $400,000 to Brant’s White Birch Farm as a yearling in 2019 at Fasig-Tipton at The Saratoga Sale from the Warrendale Sales consignment.
Lemon Liqueur is also the dam of the unraced always dreaming 2-year-old filly named Red Lemonade and a yearling filly by Flatter . She was bred to Not This Time for the 2022 breeding season.
Video: Hillsborough S. (G2T)
Dolce Zel Completes Another Brown Exacta
A couple of races later on the card in the $200,000 Florida Oaks (G3T), another turf filly from the Chad Brown barn landed in the Tampa Bay winner’s circle. Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, and Robert LaPenta’s European import Dolce-Zel benefited from a patient, stalking trip under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to prevail by a head in her first start since breaking her maiden in France last fall.
Spicer Dolce Zel’s favored stablemate, rushed up to take charge into the first quarter, clicking off a :24.19 split before longshot Princess Elin forced the issue from the inside. The two leaders managed to slow the tempo down the backstretch through a :49.56 half-mile and 1:14.47 for six furlongs. With Spicer shaking off her rivals and opening up around the bend, Ortiz angled Dolce Zel three-wide into the straightaway and the filly accelerated after her barnmate, besting Spicer narrowly under the wire.
On-Alert rallied from last to get up for the show, 1 1 /2 lengths behind the top two.
Dolce Zel ran the 1 1/16-miles on the good turf course in 1:44.18.
Dolce Zel edges stablemate Spicer in the Florida Oaks
“I had a perfect trip, to be honest. I was in beautiful position going into the first turn,” said Ortiz after the race. “Up the backside I followed the horse to beat, and that was the other filly for Chad (Spicer). She’s a real nice filly so I had her like a target.
“By the far turn it looked like I was in good position and ready to roll, but Chad told me that when she makes the lead early she can wait on horses. So I was ready for that. When she hit the lead, she kind of waited a little bit for the other horses, so I hit her one time and she responded very well. She looks like a nice filly. She was ready today and she did everything right.”
Dolce Zel is from the first crop of her sire, the group 1-winner zelzal and is out of the unraced Dr Fong mare Dolce Attesta, who has produced five winners from five foals to race. Bred by Scuderia Micolo Di Nicola Galli and C. SNC, Dolce Zel is a half sister to the group stakes-placed Pure Zen (Zoffany ) and to an unraced 2-year-old filly by Shalaa .