little more than a year after breaking her maiden, the Phipps Stable's
Abaco goes in search of her first graded stakes score when she takes on a
diverse field of turf fillies and mares on Saturday in the 37th running
of the Grade 3, $200,000 Athenia at Belmont Park.
Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
a 5-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway, made eight trips to the
races before scoring her first victory in a one-mile maiden event over
the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course last July. She went on to close
out her 2012 campaign with three straight optional claiming wins, and in
her first graded stakes appearance finished second, beaten less than a
length, in the Grade 3 Suwanee in February at Gulfstream Park.
placed in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland Race Course, Abaco wound
up sixth, and then was fourth in the restricted Speed Boat overnight
stakes behind winner Samitar over a "good" Saratoga turf course. She
most recently missed by a head as the favorite in the Lady Baltimore
stakes on September 21 at Laurel Park, with all three races at the
Athenia distance of 1 1/16 miles.
thought she was much the best in the Lady Baltimore, but she had all
kinds of trouble in the race," said Abaco's Hall of Fame trainer, Shug
McGaughey. "I'm sure trying to win a graded stakes with her - I think
she's deserving of it. Whether it's Saturday or not, I don't know, but
she's doing awfully well."
who won the 2007 Athenia with Criminologist, will give Joel Rosario a
leg up aboard Abaco, who will carry 116 pounds on Saturday. The pair
will leave from post position 4 at 6-1 on the morning line.
Chad Brown will send out the graded stakes-winning duo of Samitar, star
of the Grade 1 Garden City in 2012, and Pianist, who finished second by
a neck in the Grade 2 Ketel One Ballston Spa last time out. Both are
2-for-2 at Belmont, with Samitar also having won the Fairy Garden
overnight stakes in July and Pianist owning victories in a maiden race
in 2011 and the Given overnight stakes in 2012.
not ideal to run them both in the same spot but there are only so many
graded stakes on the turf to go around," said Brown. "They're both doing
well. Samitar has run well at Belmont Park, and Pianist seems to run
well fresh; we'll lead them both over there and see what happens."
3-2-1 from nine American starts for owner Martin Schwartz, will leave
from post position 3 under jockey Javier Castellano, with the pair
receiving 7-5 favoritism on the morning line.
who scored her first graded stakes win in the Grade 3 Gallorette on May
18 at Pimlico Race Course, drew post position 5 and will carry high
weight of 123 pounds. Jose Ortiz will ride the Hidden Brook Farm
color-bearer, who is the second choice at 5-2 on the morning line.
Christophe Clement has saddled three Athenia winners, most recently
Denomination in 2011. This year he has entered Ruthenia, fourth in last
year's edition, and Lady Cohiba, who will run only if the race comes off
tabbed at 6-1 on the morning line, will leave from post position 6 with
jockey Jose Lezcano riding. Lady Cohiba, winner of the off-the-turf
Glens Falls last time out, will have Junior Alvarado aboard if she runs.
out the field are Embarr, fifth in the Lady Baltimore; My Perfect Ten,
unraced since taking the Ellis Park Turf in July, and Assateague, fourth
behind Peace Preserver, Hungry Island and Better Lucky in the Grade 3
Noble Damsel on September 14. Royal Lahaina and Moment in Dixie, like
Lady Cohiba, were entered main track only.