Nellie Cashman was a dominant winner last time out, it's true—but of a $35,000 maiden special weight against fellow Pennsylvania-breds at Parx Racing in the seventh try of her career. So you can forgive the bettors who sent her off at 19-1 in the $150,000 Virginia Oaks (gr. IIIT), and join the racing world in applauding her courageous battle to victory by half a length on July 13 at Colonial Downs (VIDEO).
Sycamore Racing's 3-year-old Mineshaft filly came off a 5 1/4-length score going 1 1/16 miles on the turf June 21 to take the 1 1/8-mile Virginia Oaks over 2-1 favorite Praia, giving trainer Francis "Tres" Abbott III his first graded stakes win. She is now two-for-three on the lawn after hitting the board just once in five tries on the main track, with her other grass effort a runner-up finish in a May 17 maiden at Pimlico Race Course.
Jockey Forest Boyce put in a top-notch ride aboard Nellie Cashman, who broke alertly and went straight to the front in the first few jumps from the gate. Eased back by her rider, the filly relaxed perfectly on the rail to track second a length behind the pace of Three Hearts, who inherited the lead and lulled them to sleep up front with a quarter in :25.93 and a half in :52.21.
Boyce angled her mount out and moved up to come on even terms for three quarters in 1:16.98, with Nellie Cashman looming boldly as the field of nine turned for home. Set down for the drive, the filly fought for an advantage while drifting out slightly through a mile in 1:40.60, only to have Three Hearts mount a brief surge back on the inside.
Boyce corrected her mount with a few well-timed strokes of the whip, and Nellie Cashman surged forward again under vigorous handling to get the win in a final time of 1:52.86 on the good outer turf. Praia came flying late at the end to just miss, nosing out Three Hearts for the place.
Nellie Cashman returned $41.60, $17.40, and $7.60 while Praia brought $4.20 and $3 and Three Hearts paid $3.20. Those three were followed home by Hedonemewrongsong, Cat's Holiday, Tanzspiel, Always Kitten, Really Right, and Bella Nicole. Blossom's Trail and Hold Our Destiny scratched.
Bred in Pennsylvania by Nelson Clemmens out of the Pine Bluff mare Alison's Winner, Nellie Cashman improved her record to 2-3-1 from eight starts, with earnings of $140,770. She was a $57,000 weanling purchase at the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale when bought by Paul de Hechavarria from the consignment of Glenmalure Farm, agent, and was a $70,000 RNA from the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by Summerfield, agent.