OLDSMAR, Fla. -- Dona Bruja gave every indication that this could be her year when the Argentine-bred mare was an easy winner Saturday in the 19th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Always on the lead under Jose Ortiz, Dona Bruja won the 1 1/16-mile turf race by four lengths over the even-money favorite, La Coronel, who broke a bit tardily when altering how many handicappers thought the race would unfold. The winner returned $4.80 as second choice after finishing in 1:40.92 over firm going.
Ignacio Correas, who trains Dona Bruja for Dom Felipe LLC, was elated with the outcome.
"That's her," Correas said. "She makes me look good, but really, that's her."
Dona Bruja won eight of 10 starts in her native country before making an immediate impact on being sent last year to the U.S., winning back-to-back Grade 3 turf stakes before finishing in a dead heat for second in the Grade 1 Beverly D. and fourth in the Grade 1 First Lady.
"We were not very lucky in her last two races," Correas said. "Maybe this will be our year."
Correas said his plan as 2018 unfolds will be to work backward from the Beverly D. in early August. He also said the mare could also be nominated to the Breeders' Cup, with the intent of shooting for the BC Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
Both Dona Bruja and La Coronel were making their first starts since the Keeneland fall meet in October. La Coronel, who led virtually from the start in winning the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, did not have such a quick beginning this time.
"That's OK," trainer Mark Casse said. "She ran well and showed something of a new dimension. We've got a long year ahead and I'm happy with how she ran."
Truly Together was along late to be third, another length behind La Coronel. A field of seven fillies and mares started, with Westit an early scratch.
The $2 exacta (2-7) paid $9, the $1 trifecta (2-7-1) returned $11.50, and the 10-cent superfecta (2-7-1-5) was worth just $2.55.