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Abaco Makes Stakes Debut in Suwannee River
Phipps Stable’s 5-year-old Kentucky homebred mare Abaco, who has won her last four starts on turf for trainer Shug McGaughey, will face her biggest challenge yet Saturday when she makes her stakes debut in the $150,000 Suwannee River Stakes (G3) over a 1 1/8 mile turf course at Gulfstream Park.
The Suwannee River will be one of four stakes races on Gulfstream's Superstar Saturday program along with the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) and $300,000 Kitten's Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1).
A regally-bred daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of Cat Cay, Abaco took a while to hit her best stride as she made eight starts before breaking her maiden, although she did run well to finish second four times and third twice during that run. Her four-race win streak began with a maiden score at Saratoga in late July. She won two allowance races at Belmont before winning her last race on Gulfstream's turf Dec. 9.
Jockey John Velazquez, who has been aboard for all of Abaco's victories, retains the mount.
“She was unlucky in a few of her races not to break her maiden before she did,” said McGaughey. “A lot of times you’ll see a horse keep knocking on the door and once they win, they keep winning. We always felt like she was okay.
“I’ve been lucky to be able to use her conditions. She’s come around, and this is another step for her,” McGaughey said. “It’s her first time in a stakes, and I’m sure it will be a very competitive race.”
The Suwannee has come up very strong with Abaco’s rivals led by Frank Calabrese’s veteran turf stakes performer Romacaca, Luis Saez; and Hillsbrook Farm’s Hard Not to Like, Joe Rocco, Jr.
Romacaca comes into the race after two good starts at the meet for trainer Danny Miller, winning the South Beach Stakes in December and finishing a game third in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf on Jan. 19. The daughter of Running Stag boasts an overall career record of 33-16-5-4 for earnings of $941,000 and a victory would push her past the $1 million mark.
Hard Not to Like won the Marshua’s River Stakes (G3) over the course on Jan. 5 for trainer Michael Matz. The 4-year-old daughter of Hard Spun scored by a hard-fought half-length over James Scatourchio and J.J. Pletcher’s Channel Lady with Team Block’s Leading Astray third, the last two also entered to run back in the Suwannee River.
Completing the field are Donver Stable’s Inglorious, Mackie Racing’s Kya One, and Charles Middleton III’s Affair Dabbler. Tonys Investments LLC’s’ My Pal Chrisy is entered to run ‘main track only’ by trainer Padarath Lutchman.