Abscond, Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, noses out Walkin Marrakesh and Jamie Spencer on the rail and Fair Maiden and Flavien Prat on her outside to win the Natalma Stakes at Woodbine. PHOTO BY MICHAEL BURNS
By John Manley
Had Eddie Kenneally scripted last week, he couldn’t have done better than the real life version that greeted him. Maybe he could have done a little better, but only a little.
The Waterford native sent out four winners, each significant in its own way, including one graded stakes victor, plus another that placed in a graded stakes.
The highlight was Abscond’s win in the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine on Sunday. The 2-year-old filly, owned by Apogee Bloodstock and Mike Anderson Racing, endured a stiff drive after pressing every step of this mile over yielding ground to capture a three-way photo over Irish-bred Walkin Marrakesh, ridden by Jamie Spencer, and the Eoin Harty-trained Fair Maiden, which settled for third money.
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Abscond had broken her maiden in late July at Ellis Park at first asking and then got second money in a nongraded stakes race at Saratoga in mid-August. Both races were at five and one-half furlongs. The stretchout to eight furlongs might have been a caution flag to the wagering public, which ignored the presence of Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle and let the filly get off at 9-1. She paid $21.00 to win.
“When I asked her to go, she’s a fighter,” Ortiz said. “She fought with the outside horse and came back on the inside. She fought back and she put a head in front in the last couple of jumps.”
On Saturday, Kenneally saddled Joseph Sutton’s Scabbard to a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. Corey Lanerie had Scabbard well positioned in this mile and one-sixteenth whirl on the main track, but Dennis’ Moment, ridden by – wait for it – Irad Ortiz, Jr. got the jump on him and hit the wire nearly two lengths in front.
If you hadn’t heard of Scabbard before now, don’t fret. He did business as Noose while winning his debut at Churchill in late June and then running second in the Saratoga Special in August. Soon thereafter, the Jockey Club prevailed upon Sutton to change the 2-year-old colt’s name in an abundance of caution over the possibility that the original name might inflame racial sensitivities at a time when that’s the last thing the sport needs.
Kenneally’s week got rolling on Thursday at the fifth and final Kentucky Downs card of the year, when he sent out the winners of the first and third races. Applicator, which he claimed five weeks prior at Saratoga for $40,000 on behalf of himself, Barry Schumer, James Brown and James Durante, earned that back and then some when he got up by one-half length under Javier Castellano. Applicator, a 6-year-old gelding that has been a popular commodity at the claim box this year (Kenneally’s is the fourth barn he’s bedded down in this year), paid $8.20 to win as the second choice in this mile and 70 yards affair for $40,000 claiming stock. He went unclaimed.
An hour later, Our Bay B Ruth, owned by Homewrecker Racing and Summerplace Farm, made it two wins in a row by rallying under Jose Ortiz to capture a first-level allowance mile by nearly two lengths. The 3-year-old filly brought back $9.60 in the win slot.
Then, on Sunday, Kenneally returned Girls Know Best, the 5-year-old stakes-winning mare that he owns with Brian Chenvert and Triton Stable, to the races after an eight-month freshening. She led throughout under Lanerie in this five-furlong allowance sprint, reaching the wire in front by one and one-half lengths. She returned $4.80 to win as the favorite.
Kenneally originally claimed Girls Know Best in October 2017 for $40,000 at Keeneland and has since won six of 12 races with her, including three nongraded stakes. She boasts a career box of 12 wins from 22 starts and earnings over $500,000.
MOVING ON UP
Brendan Walsh must be moving up in the world. He’s now training a string for Godolphin and made an immediate impression in Saturday’s nightcap at Churchill Downs with Maxfield. The 2-year-old first-time starter had only one horse beaten with a half-mile to go, but came running under Jose Ortiz to reach the wire in front by three-quarters of a length in this maiden special weight mile on the main track. Maxfield, a son of Street Sense out of a Bernardini mare, returned $22.20 to win.
Churchill began its September meet on Friday with a dead heat to kick things off in the first race. James Graham got half a loaf in that deal aboard Lady Cleopatra, a 3-1 shot that returned $5.00 to win after sharing the spoils with Kimberley Dream, the 44-1 rank outsider.
Getting back to Woodbine, the companion race to Abscond’s Natalma was the Summer Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings. Joseph O’Brien sent Vitalogy over off a fourth-place finish in a Group 3 race at York in August and got third place here with Spencer aboard. He was preceded to the wire by Decorated Invader, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons, naturally, and Cadet Connelly, a 109-1 shot that had no business going off at such a ridiculous price.