- Road to the Kentucky Derby
- Racing & Wagering
Casse invades Tampa with filly duo in Florida Oaks
Trainer Mark Casse will invade Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday with a trio of three-year-olds looking to take the next step on the road to Churchill Downs. Sovereign Award finalist Prospective, a son of Malibu Moon, will go in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes while Northern Passion and Dixie Strike will line up in the $150,000 Florida Oaks for three-year-old fillies on turf.
Northern Passion, herself a Sovereign finalist in the champion juvenile filly category, was a smashing last-to-first winner of the Grade 3 Natalma at Woodbine. The First Samurai filly would have been a prime candidate for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, but connections gambled on a dirt attempt in the Juvenile Fillies. It didn't pay off, as Northern Passion could do no better than a rallying seventh from far back. Meanwhile, Northern Passion's form had been flattered. Natalma third Stephanie's Kitten went on to glory in both the Grade 1 Alcibiades and the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The class of the field on Saturday, Northern Passion should relish reverting to turf for the 1 1/16-mile affair, where she will once again partner with jockey Luis Contreras. She is coupled in the wagering with the Dixie Union filly Dixie Strike, a commanding winner of the Ontario Lassie in her final start at two. Jose Lezcano picks up the mount in her turf debut.
Other contenders include More Than Love, last seen battling to victory in the Grade 3 Miesque at Hollywood Park on November 25; Customer Base, who adds blinkers for noted turf trainer Tom Proctor; smart Gulfstream maiden winner Regalo Mia; and Sisterhood, who wheels back after a slow-starting fourth in the January 22 Sweetest Chant.