It was a fight to the finish all the way around for Abscond in the Grade 1, $250,000 Natalma Stakes, but the 2-year-old daughter of Blame got up between two horses to cross the wire a nose in front on Sept. 15 at Woodbine.
Abscond, owned by Apogee Bloodstock and Mike Anderson Racing, engaged in an intense stretch-long duel with runner-up Walk In Marrakesh on her inside and Fair Maiden on her outside, but proved too tough in the final strides under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
"I'm really impressed with her," said Kelly Wheeler, assistant to trainer Eddie Kenneally. "She's done everything right since she broke her maiden. Really, we've asked a lot of her shipping her up to Saratoga – she handled that great. So we shipped her up here, it looked like a good spot, and she came through."
After breaking first, Abscond stalked the pace as Walk in Marrakesh moved up the inside to lead. Walk in Marrakesh set opening fractions of :23.99 and :48.24 through the first half-mile, with Abscond a head behind breathing down the pacesetter's neck.
Walk in Marrakesh found herself a length in front as she ran three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.56, but Abscond challenged again and Fair Maiden ranged up on the outside of them turning for home. The three fillies charged down the homestretch together, and Abscond found a final surge to finish the mile in 1:36.51 over a yielding turf course.
"She was acting really good, she broke out of there and she broke sharp and just stayed in the middle of the turf course and she was relaxed," Ortiz said. "She was going relaxed in the middle of the track so I left her there, I didn't fight too much with her.
"And then by the time I start saving some ground in the turn and when I asked her to go, she's a fighter. 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. Everything worked out good for us."
Walk in Marrakesh held for second by a neck over Fair Maiden.
Abscond won her debut by a head on July 21 at Ellis Park and ran second by four lengths to Kimari in the Aug. 14 Bolton Landing Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in her two starts before shipping to Woodbine. Wheeler said it was too soon to decide if Abscond would go to the Breeders' Cup and that she would ship back to Kentucky before the next race is decided.
The filly was bred in Kentucky by Michael Niall out of the Grand Slam mare Solitary Life. –Christine Oser
Earlier on the card, West Point Thoroughbreds, William Freeman, and William Sandbrook's Decorated Invader came from off the pace and pulled away to a 1 ¾-length win under Ortiz Jr. in the Grade 2, $250,000 Summer Stakes.
The Summer Stakes is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Challenge Series race for the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, and after the race his connections said the 2-year-old son of Declaration of War will target the Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita Park.
Decorated Invader didn't have the smoothest of starts in the one-mile Summer Stakes, getting away near the back of the 10-horse field. The colt gradually made up ground into the turn and began to roll on the outside heading into the stretch. He took over within a furlong of the finish and finished under a hand ride, complete one mile in 1:36.34.
"I know he broke a touch poorly but with the rain we had and everything, I was pretty comfortable he was moving well and was happy where he was," said Clement's assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul. "We were just very confident with our ride. He was just biding his time, and he showed up today."
Trained by Christophe Clement, Decorated Invader just missed in his July 13 debut at Saratoga Race Course, closing strongly to finish second in a 1 1/16-mile turf race. A month later, the Kentucky-bred broke his maiden via a 3 ¼-length victory, also at 1 1/16-miles on the grass at the Spa.
"We talked about (the Breeders' Cup) beforehand," Lorieul said. "It would be the obvious next target for him. Today was the big test, and he completed it so we're very happy for the partnership of West Point."
"He's only had three races so I think he's getting better and better," Ortiz said. "Today, I really liked the way he did it. He was floating in a little bit in the stretch. He always does, but hopefully he learns and if he just keeps a little more straight in the stretch that would be great. He keeps learning."
Bred by Redmon Farm, Decorated Invader is out of the Arch mare Gamely Girl. West Point Thoroughbreds paid $200,000 for Decorated Invader at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. –Mary LaRue