Saturday, August 23, 2014

Abaco rolls in stretch to take G2 Ballston Spa

The New York Racing Association, Inc.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Abaco rolls in stretch to take G2 Ballston Spa


By Sean Morris


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The stretch-running Abaco earned her first victory of the year with a late flourish in the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa for older fillies and mares to kick off the graded stakes action on Travers Day at Saratoga Race Course.


Abaco's closing style often leaves her at the mercy of pace, which compromised her chances in the Grade 1 Diana on July 19 at the Spa and the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley on April 12 at Keeneland - races she lost by a combined two lengths.


On Saturday, stretch-out sprinter Night Song ensured a lively early tempo, leading the field through honest splits of 23.95 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 48.99 for the half over the "good" going. After three-quarters in 1:13.33, the pacesetter yielded, and a cavalry charge to the finish commenced with horses stacked six abreast on the inner turf course.


Trainer Graham Motion's Strathnaver poked a head in front in deep stretch, but a determined Abaco charged down the center of the track under jockey Jose Ortiz to prevail by a neck, completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.64.


"I'm excited," said Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, who trains Abaco for Phipps Stable. "In her last three races, she's really had some good moves and been unlucky to lose. Jose rode a great race today and got her in good position. She's a funny kind of filly, if you allow her to lay too close she won't finish as well. I was a little bit afraid that if we did get a pace that he might let her ease up a little sooner than we wanted to. I told him she's going to be back, so you're just going to have to judge your move on what the pace is, and he did a good job of that."


It took Abaco a little time to figure out racing, but once she did, she's been a model of consistency. Since breaking her maiden in her ninth career start, the Giant's Causeway mare has won five of 15 starts and placed in several others, predominantly in graded stakes. Her Ballston Spa victory bumped her bankroll to $660,108.


Abaco returned $10.60 on a $2 win wager.


Strathnaver finished second, reversing a finish from earlier in the meet when the Graham Motion-trained Main Sequence nosed out McGaughey's Imagining in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer.


It was two lengths back to 17-1 long shot Nellie Cashman in third, who finished 2 ¼ lengths clear of Centre Court. The pacesetting Night Song finished fifth.


Odds-on favorite Filimbi loomed off the leader's flank entering the stretch, but came up empty when the real running began, fading to finish last.


"We had a good trip, a perfect trip," said Joel Rosario, jockey aboard Filimbi. "I thought I was in a good spot, but turning for home they kind of got away from me. She just didn't seem to have it today."





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