Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
The $100,000 Marshua’s River Stakes (G3) attracted a dozen members of
the fairer sex for its 15th renewal on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. It
will mark the first start in stakes company on these shores for Viva
, who won the Grande Premio Diana (G1)—a classic race for
3-year-old fillies—in her native Brazil.
Trainer Todd Pletcher intended to run Viva Rafaela last Saturday in
the La Prevoyante Handicap (G3), but was forced to come up with a Plan B
when Calder Race Course canceled that 12-furlong event.
“My original plan with her was to run her in the La Prevoyante, but
that went up all in smoke,” Pletcher pointed out. “I think she’s a filly
that would like to go a little bit longer, but we had her ready to run
and felt we’d take a look at this race. We were out of options.
Hopefully she’s the kind of filly that can go in the Orchid [G3 on March
29] or a race like that down the road.”
Fourth in her U.S. bow on July 31 at Saratoga, the 5-year-old had a
rough time of it three weeks later over the same course and wound up
eighth. She put it all together in an optional claimer on November 11
over this course and distance, and Pletcher acknowledged that Viva
Rafaela has been a work in progress.
“She had trained very well, but we’ve been trying to figure out how
she needs to be ridden,” Pletcher explained. “The first time, we tried
to take her back and she didn’t like that. The second time we tried to
let her run freely and that didn’t work—she was a little too free. I
think it all came together for her last time, and hopefully she’ll
continue to improve and learn. That’s the thing with the South American
horses—the longer they’re here, the more they acclimate.”
Edgar Prado, who rode the filly last time, will have the call on
Saturday when Viva Rafaela breaks from the four hole.
Viva Rafaela will have her work cut out for her. The consistent
Angelica Zapata won three straight stakes races before being beaten only
a half-length in the My Charmer Handicap (G3) on December 7, while
Abaco looks to add another graded-stakes victory to her
A homebred for the Phipps Stable, Abaco closed out 2013 with a win in
the Cardinal Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs on November 9. She turned
six on January 1, but trainer Shug McGaughey feels the daughter of
Giant’s Causeway hasn’t lost a beat.
“She had a great work yesterday on the turf in 37 seconds, which was
just to get her back in the game,” McGaughey said. “From watching her
around the barn and the track, I was pretty impressed with what I saw.
We’d like to have her through the year, but it depends on her. If her
races down here are good, then we’ll probably keep her in training. We
can always breed her. She’s a graded stakes winner and there’s pretty
good upside with the type of pedigree that she’s got.”
Abaco drew the outside post and will carry Javier Castellano.
Also in the Marshua’s River field are Floral Romance, Miss Montreal,
Silverette, Naples Bay, Deanaallen’skitten, Poetic Kid, Rose to Gold and
Somali Lemonade. Dreaming of Sophia was entered as main-track only.