Dom Felipe's Dona Bruja, a 6-year-old Argentine-bred mare by the Berstein stallion Storm Embrujado, seized command early, shrugged off an attempted rally by even-money favorite La Coronel on the turn for home, then drew off to an impressive four-length victory in the Grade 3 Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday under Jose Ortiz. Trained by Ignacio Correas IV, Dona Bruja was clocked in 1:40.92 for the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf.
La Coronel finished second, with Truly Together third and Lovely Loyree fourth in the field of seven older fillies and mares.
Second choice in the wagering at 7-5, Dona Bruja paid $4.80 for the win, her third in five starts since coming to the U.S. and her 11th overall from 15 starts. Dona Bruja was a multiple stakes winner in her native Argentina, including the G1 Copa de Plata in December 2016.
The mare won her first two U.S. starts – the G3 Mint Julep Handicap at Churchill Downs in June 2017 and the G3 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park the following month – then was narrowly beaten by Dacita when in a dead-heat for second with Grand Jete in the G1 Beverly D Stakes on Aug. 12. Her race prior to the Endeavour was the G1 First Lady at Keeneland in October, where Dona Bruja finished fourth.
Ortiz was riding Dona Bruja for the first time, having replaced Declan Cannon, who was aboard the mare in her previous U.S. starts.
Dona Bruja won a three-way battle for the lead with Lovely Loyree and Josdesanimaux coming out of the infield chute, then settled into an easy lead. She set fractions of :23.92, :48.02 and 1:11.05 for the opening six furlongs without any pressure, then hit the mile marker in 1:34.74, coasting the final sixteenth of a mile under the 2017 Eclipse Award winning jockey.
“I think that (going to the lead from the start) was Bruja's plan, not our plan,” said Correas. “I guess she does what she wants. She has so much talent. She's had a couple of unlucky trips, but hopefully this will be her year. I couldn't believe we were on the lead, but she broke sharp and she was fresh because she hasn't raced in four months. I guess that's why she went to the lead. She's amazing, and I'm the luckiest guy to have her in my barn.”
“Ignacio told me to keep her relaxed and don't change her style and let La Coronel go, and hopefully somebody would go after her,” said Ortiz. “But (Dona Bruja) broke really good. I was a bit nervous going into the first turn on the lead, but she was pulling me, I guess because she was so fresh. I think she is going to move forward off this.”
Mark Casse, trainer of runner-up La Coronel said: “Our filly broke a little slow, if not, they probably would have been head-to-head. She maybe was a little flat, but this is the beginning of the year. It's supposed to get better from here.”
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