Phipps Stable’s 5-year-old Kentucky homebred mare Abaco
, who has won
her last four starts on turf for trainer Shug McGaughey, will face her
biggest challenge yet Saturday when she makes her stakes debut in the
$150,000 Suwannee River Stakes (G3) over a 1 1/8 mile turf course at
The Suwannee River will be one of four stakes races on Gulfstream's
Superstar Saturday program along with the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1)
and $300,000 Kitten's Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1).
A regally-bred daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of Cat Cay, Abaco
took a while to hit her best stride as she made eight starts before
breaking her maiden, although she did run well to finish second four
times and third twice during that run. Her four-race win streak began
with a maiden score at Saratoga in late July. She won two allowance
races at Belmont before winning her last race on Gulfstream's turf Dec.
Jockey John Velazquez, who has been aboard for all of Abaco's victories, retains the mount.
“She was unlucky in a few of her races not to break her maiden
before she did,” said McGaughey. “A lot of times you’ll see a horse keep
knocking on the door and once they win, they keep winning. We always
felt like she was okay.
“I’ve been lucky to be able to use her conditions. She’s come
around, and this is another step for her,” McGaughey said. “It’s her
first time in a stakes, and I’m sure it will be a very competitive
The Suwannee has come up very strong with Abaco’s rivals led by
Frank Calabrese’s veteran turf stakes performer Romacaca, Luis Saez; and
Hillsbrook Farm’s Hard Not to Like, Joe Rocco, Jr.
Romacaca comes into the race after two good starts at the meet for
trainer Danny Miller, winning the South Beach Stakes in December and
finishing a game third in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf on
Jan. 19. The daughter of Running Stag boasts an overall career record
of 33-16-5-4 for earnings of $941,000 and a victory would push her past
the $1 million mark.
Hard Not to Like won the Marshua’s River Stakes (G3) over the course
on Jan. 5 for trainer Michael Matz. The 4-year-old daughter of Hard
Spun scored by a hard-fought half-length over James Scatourchio and J.J.
Pletcher’s Channel Lady with Team Block’s Leading Astray third, the
last two also entered to run back in the Suwannee River.
Completing the field are Donver Stable’s Inglorious, Mackie Racing’s
Kya One, and Charles Middleton III’s Affair Dabbler. Tonys Investments
LLC’s’ My Pal Chrisy is entered to run ‘main track only’ by trainer