Hattaash Makes Connections Proud

Hattaash Makes Connections Proud
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Lost in the celebration of Avanzare's exciting victory in the Grade III $150,000 Washington Park Handicap and the buzz of Chris Emigh's 3,500th victory was the awesome runner-up performance of local charge Hattaash.  The lightly raced 7-year-old ran the race of his life to lose by a head at the wire after closing from the tail end of the field.

The performance by the son of Strong Hope was the second time he had given his best effort in the Washington Park.  In 2013, the bay gelding was a strong third - beaten only a half-length by multiple graded stakes winner Willcox Inn.  That knockout performance - despite an impressive allowance win next out - was not truly substantiated until Saturday, but the performance was very satisfying for his connections.

"I knew he could do it," said trainer Cheryl Winebaugh.  "He's a good racehorse - he just wants to run when he wants to run and when he decides to."

Apparently the winner of 10 of 48 starts decided to do so on Saturday and was rewarded with the $29,700 place purse.  The effort made it 35 top-three finishes for the charge in 48 starts, but also followed five consecutive disappointing performances.

"He has been inconsistent recently," Winebaugh explained.  "We were not aiming for (the Washington Park), but it came up the way it did and we thought 'Why not?' We were not sure if he still wanted to run and be a racehorse, but I'm glad he came to run (on Saturday).  I knew he like the distance and the track - like in last year's race - and on the middle of the turn I could tell he was ready to run and wasn't backing out."

Just outside the quarter pole, jockey Sheldon Russell - on the gelding for the first time - asked Hattaash to accelerate and maneuver between horses, and the overlooked Kenneth Fishbein-owned racehorse did so with style - tipping out at the top of the stretch and setting the stage for a stretch-long battle with Avanzare.

"He ran awesome," Russell said immediately following the race.  "I got the chance to work him last week and (the connections) were stressing to me that he was sitting on a big race; he just hadn't been running as well. I worked him and he was very cool and professional. They told me to stay six lengths behind and make a run - and he got a great trip. I honestly thought when I tipped him out that he would run right by Chris (Emigh on Avanzare). I don't know if Chris' horse dug back in or my horse anticipated a little bit and just thought he was home."

The effort - though disappointing to not win - was a point of pride for the connections.  "We know we still have a racehorse, now," Winebaugh said with satisfaction.  "If he came to run, I knew he could do it.  He came back a little tired and ate up everything (Sunday morning)."

For an immediate follow-up race, the connections are still unsure as to which path they shall take, but one thing is for certain: "He'll tell us what he wants to do," Winebaugh continued.  "We aren't aiming for a race in particular, immediately, but if he wants to keep being a racehorse we'll keep running him.  He's a good horse.  We were third last year, second this year - maybe we'll win it next year!"

Source: Arlington Park

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