David Grening Mar 27, 2020 DRF
Sunday’s feature at Tampa Bay Downs could be a royal battle between a Duchess and a Queen.
Duchess of Sussex, a recent maiden winner at Gulfstream Park, and Queens Embrace, a two-time winner at Tampa Bay Downs, head a field of 10, plus two also-eligibles, entered for the first-level/optional $75,000 claiming race that goes as the last of eight races Sunday. First post is 12:25 p.m.
Duchess of Sussex wound up on the also-eligible list of Saturday’s $100,000 Sanibel Island Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Graham Motion said Friday that even if she were to draw into the Sanibel Island, the outside post would be a concern to him.
Duchess of Sussex did overcome the outside post in an 11-horse field to defeat maidens going a mile on Feb. 23 at Gulfstream. In that race, Duchess of Sussex stalked the pacesetting La Babia until putting that one away and then holding off a late run from Cat Lady.
“I thought it was a pretty good effort,” Motion said. “All three of her efforts have been solid. The first time she ran at Tampa” – a third-place finish last Dec. 14 – “she was a little keen and probably got tired.”
Breaking from post 2, Duchess of Sussex figures to be a forward factor under Daniel Centeno.
After losing her first two starts, both in Kentucky for Bret Calhoun, Queens Embrace has gone 2 for 2 at Tampa for Kathleen O’Connell. Her first win came in an off-the-turf maiden $16,000 claimer on New Year’s Day. Five weeks later, Queens Embrace faced winners in a starter/optional $25,000 claimer on turf and showed a good late turn of foot to win by two lengths.
“She’s been training very, very good,” O’Connell said. “I usually try and pick the easier spots, but we’re in hard times. I’m happy to be running. I think she’ll give a good account of herself. The grass seems to move her up.”
O’Connell also entered Countess Jessica, a daughter of Animal Kingdom, who would be stretching out in distance and trying the turf for the first time in her third career start.
“She’s got a lot of turf pedigree,” O’Connell said. “It’s obviously a big step going from the dirt to turf and two turns. She’s really not well socialized; she’s still in that gawky teenager stage. But I think she’ll try.”
Chick’s Shadow gets back on the turf after running second in a starter allowance on dirt on March 13. In her most recent start on turf, Chick’s Shadow finished third to Outburst in a first-level allowance race. Outburst came back to win the Grade 3 Florida Oaks.
Chick’s Shadow, trained by Ian Hemingway, breaks from post 9 under Angel Suarez.
Richies Great Girl also gets back on turf after running fifth in a dirt race at Gulfstream on March 5. She finished fourth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by next-out winner Queen of God in a starter stakes going a mile on turf on Feb. 17.
Hey Kitten, eighth in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 29, would be a contender if able to get the one scratch she needs to draw in from the also-eligible list.