The California-bred Nashoba Key's first three starts came on the grass for trainer Carla Gaines, the 4-year-old filly's most recent victory coming against state breds in the Fran's Valentine April 29 on the Hollywood lawn at Sunday's 1 1/16-mile distance. Warren B. Williamson's homebred bay daughter of Silver Hawk--Nashoba (Caerleon) overcame Hystericalady in the closing stages under Joe Talamo to win by three-quarters of a length in a solid time of 1:42.
“She has always trained extremely well on the Cushion Track, but we just stuck with the grass because that was the route we were taking," said Gaines in explaining the switch from grass. "Mr. Williamson decided to give the Cushion Track a whirl because she was training so well and in such good form we thought it would be a good move."
Hystericalady, the 9-10 favorite in the field of six for fillies and mares, had thing her own way for David Flores, setting a tepid pace (:24 3/5, :47 4/5, 1:11 3/5) with only the slightest pressure from Ballado's Thunder. When Hystericalady repelled that challenger in the stretch, she opened up by nearly three lengths in the stretch over a tiring Balance. But Nashoba's Key, chasing the pace on the outside before surging in the stretch to draw even with Hystericalady, inched away in the closing strides after racing erratically through the lane.
"I've never been on a horse with that kind of acceleration," enthused Talamo after riding Nashoba's Key for the first time. "It's incredible what she did. Jerry Hollendorfer's horse (Hystericalady), what a nice filly she is."
Asked if he thought Nashoba's Key might even be better on Cushion Track than turf, Talamo replied, "Without a doubt."
Hystericalady, coming off a four-length win in the seven-furlong Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs May 5, finished second by 4 1/2 lengths over Balance, making her first appearance since winning the Santa Margarita (gr. I) at Santa Anita March 10.
”I thought the race was all over," Flores said. "That other horse came out of nowhere. My filly, she was running. She didn't stop. My filly accelerated really nice at the quarter pole. I still had a nice hold and let her pick it up. I don't know how she got beat."
The top finishers could come back in the 1 1/8-mile Vanity (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles on July 7.
Nashoba's Key, who had an eight-pound weight break from Balance (123) and received six from Hystericalady (121), did not begin her career until January, breaking in with a one-mile turf victory over Cal-bred maidens at Santa Anita. She beat first-level state-bred allowance foes three weeks later, then took a break until returning in the Fran's Valentine. She banked $111,660 Sunday to push her earnings to $263,460.
"She’s a late-blooming horse, her family and her bloodlines seem to produce later and longer runners," Gaines said. "She has a very explosive kick and we were waiting to see if she would exhibit that on this track as she does on the grass and she certainly did. We’re going to discuss with the owner what will be next, after we see how she comes out of this. It looks like we’re going to try the Vanity Handicap.”
Sent off as the third choice, Nashoba's Key paid $12.80, $4.60 and $2.40, topping a $34.40 exacta with Hystericalady, who returned $2.80 and $2.10. Balance was $2.10 to show. Ballado's Thunder, Great Opinions and Memorette followed. Cantabria scratched.
Balance, sent off at 8-5, came up short in her comeback race, but jockey Victor Espinoza wasn't concerned.
"She got a little tired when I asked her on the turn," Espinoza said. "Also the weight, too. She'll be ready to go next time."