Sparkle Blue outshines rivals in G2 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs

Talented daughter of Hard Spun never wavers on way to earning second Graded Stakes victory

Sparkle Blue took the lead shortly after the start, slowed the pace down and led her rivals on a merry chase for nine furlongs to capture the $225,000 G2 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, 9 March. 

The Hillsborough victory was the second Graded Stakes win for the five-year-old Hard Spun mare, who captured the G3 Valley View Stakes at Keeneland as a three-year-old. Sparkle Blue, who entered the race off a sharp third in last month’s G3 Endeavour Stakes over the same course, is now a four-time Stakes winner, and has finished in the money in 11 of her 15 career starts.

A compact field of six older fillies and mares went to the post in the Hillsborough, with the Chad Brown-trained Fluffy Socks sent off as the slight favorite. Breaking alertly out of the starting gate, Sparkle Blue was sent immediately to the lead by jockey Jorge Ruiz. The pair were able to set easy fractions of :25.38 and :52.11 through the opening half-mile, leading Star Fortress by a length.

Sparkle Blue continued to maintain her advantage over Star Fortress through the far turn to the top of the stretch, as Aspen Grove and Fluffy Socks began to close from the rear. Sparkle Blue dug in as Aspen Grove – rallying along the inside rail – and Fluffy Socks – flying down the center of the course – tried to reel in the longtime leader in the final strides but fell short, as Sparkle Blue held on to win by a half-length over Aspen Grove. Fluffy Socks was just a neck further back in third.

Bred in Kentucky by Catherine Parke, Sparkle Blue is out of Silk n’ Sapphire, a winning daughter of Smart Strike. Sparkle Blue is a half-sister to Shared Account, winner of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and to Colonial Flag, winner of the G3 Ontario Colleen Stakes. As a broodmare, Shared Account has produced the multiple Graded Stakes-winning filly Sharing, (G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, G2 Edgewood Stakes) and Stakes winner, Riley’s Choice

Sparkle Blue joins Drum Roll Please as early 2024 Stakes winners for Hard Spun. Drum Roll Please, a three-year-old colt owned by Gold Square LLC, took the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct in January. In 2023, Hard Spun was represented by such Stakes winners Bold Journey, Two Phil’s, Loyalty and Spun Glass.

Hard Spun is standing the 2024 breeding season at Jonabell Farm for $35,000, stands and nurses.