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High hopes are riding on Brooksville entries

Two farms are making a run at big stakes today at Tampa Bay Downs.

There might be some big tabs run up at local bars and restaurants come Monday.

Two Brooksville farms have horses entered in high-purse stakes today at Tampa Bay Downs. George Alvarez and Gilbert Valdes's Talking Red is in the $200,000 Tampa Bay Derby, and the Porter family's Chinsegut is in the Grade III, $150,000 Florida Oaks.

Both 1 1/16 races are gaining momentum as Triple Crown and filly-equivalent preps, meaning Hernando County could become a major player in the 3-year-old season this spring _ if the local horses cooperate.

Farm for farm, the county _ at least on Sunday _ is holding its own with thoroughbred mecca Ocala to the north.

"We're trying to break down Ocala and bring it all to Brooksville," Valdes laughed.

The Porters' filly has an extra personal connection with the county because of its name.

"It's named after Chinsegut Hill, the plantation north of Brooksville," Carole Porter said. "It's a native Alaskan Indian word meaning "spirit of lost things.' "

Chinsegut, bred by Porter, won three times as a 2-year-old but has finished no better than fourth in three starts this year. Chinsegut, a 20-1 shot, drew the seventh post and will be ridden by Jesus Castanon.

The Porters, who have lived in Hernando County since 1962, have about 60 horses.

Talking Red had won three of five races on turf before trainer Angel Gutierrez, Alvarez and Valdes decided to try him on dirt in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 1. After the colt finished third, four lengths off the lead to Burning Roma, they decided to supplement him into Tampa Bay Downs' signature race.

"We wanted to find another race and see how he did (on dirt)," Alvarez said.

Talking Red is a 10-1 bet and will start from the ninth slot under Johnny Rojas.

Alvarez, who owns a Brooksville dairy farm, bought Talking Red for $1,600 at an Ocala Breeders Sale auction when he was expanding his stock from some broodmares. He has three yearlings, two in training.