Late-Running Abaco Wins Ballston Spa Thriller

Late-Running Abaco Wins Ballston Spa Thriller
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
Abaco flies late to catch Strathnaver in the Ballston Spa.
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Phipps Stable homebred Abaco made an eye-catching swoop from last and prevailed in a thrilling finish with Strathnaver in the $250,000 Ballston Spa Stakes (gr. IIT) Aug. 23 at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
 
The 6-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway   won by a neck and added a second graded stakes victory to her record following the Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) last November at Churchill Downs. The slight 4-1 second choice in the field of six older fillies and mares is trained by Shug McGaughey.
 
Night Song, Centre Court, and 6-5 favorite Filimbi vied for command early, with Night Song asserting herself on the first turn and into the backstretch and leading by a length through a half-mile in fractions of :23.95 and :48.99. Strathnaver settled in fifth and Abaco tracked at the back, three wide and behind the cover of Filimbi, who also was three wide but in close attendance behind Night Song and Centre Court. 
 
Night Song's lead was reduced to a head as Centre Court moved closer while three-quarters went in 1:13.33 and Strathnaver rapidly advanced for John Velasquez. 
 
Leparoux gave Centre Court her cue and she angled three wide to lead by a head into the stretch, but Strathnaver was at her throat latch and took charge at the furlong marker. Biding her time to the five-sixteenths mark, Abaco moved five wide into the stretch. With clear sailing ahead, she reached contention at the eighth pole before collaring Strathnaver, ridden by John Velazquez, in deep stretch. The two dueled toward the finish line, but Abaco edged clear in the final strides. 
 
The time for 1 1/16 miles on good turf was 1:42.64.
 
"She doesn't have any speed, so we have to rate her from behind, and today was the perfect trip," said winning rider Jose Ortiz. "Down the backside I was behind the favorite (Filimbi), and that was the one I wanted to follow. I was right there, and when I turned for home I knew she was going to give me the big move she gave me last time. By the eighth pole, I knew I had Johnny (Velazquez). I passed everybody else, so I knew there wasn't anybody else coming."
 
Filimbi, who was third through three-quarters, was in contention in upper stretch but faded to finish last.   
 
"We had a good trip, a perfect trip," Joel Rosario said of the favorite. "I thought I was in a good spot, but turning for home they kind of got away from me. She just didn't seem to have it today."
 
Nellie Cashman finished third, two lengths behind Strathnaver. 
 
Abaco won for the first time in six starts this year and came in off a fourth-place finish in the TVG Diana Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga. She was won six races, all on turf, from 24 career starts and has earned $660,108 in four seasons.
 
Abaco paid $10.60, $4.40, and $3.20 while Strathnaver was worth $5 and $4.20 Nellie Cashman paid $5.90 to show.
 
Centre Court checked in fourth and Night Song was fifth, with Filimbi completing the order or finish. Dayatthespa scratched.
 
Abaco was bred from the two-time grade III winner Cat Cay, a daughter of Pleasant Colony. Second dam Cadillacing was a grade I winner and a full sister to champion and classic winner Easy Goer.

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