Abaan Shines on Gulfstream Turf
By Bob Ehalt BloodHorse
Handicappers may have been surprised when the speedy Abaan was outrun for the early lead in the $200,000 W. L. McKnight Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Todd Pletcher wasn’t.
“We anticipated he wouldn’t be on the lead today,” Pletcher said, “but we still felt he could be effective.”
As it turned out, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Alex Daigneault’s Abaan was as unflustered by that development as his Hall of Fame trainer as the 5-year-old Will Take Charge gelding was content to follow King Cause in second before powering to the lead on the final turn and drawing away to a two-length victory Jan. 29 in the 1 1/2-mile turf stakes.
“It was nice to see him prove that he doesn’t have to be on the lead,” Pletcher said. “It opens up a lot of options.”
Those options include rich races in Saudi Arabia and Dubai, though Pletcher also wouldn’t mind staying in Florida and Gulfstream, where Abaan won the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens Stakes in front-running fashion Dec. 24.
Wherever he goes, speed will indeed be the name of Abaan’s game, even if he lets a horse or two in front of him early.
“When he went to the far turn, he was pretty authoritative before taking the lead,” Pletcher said. “It spread the race open right there.”
The victory was the third in a row for the produce of the Tapit mare Anchorage and the fourth in five starts since he broke his maiden Sept. 6 at Saratoga Race Course in his sixth try.
“He’s come to hand very well. It was just a matter of identifying what he wants to do,” Pletcher said.
Sent off as the 3-2 favorite ($5), Abaan and jockey Luis Saez covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:29.23 on firm turf.
Paradise Farms Corporation and David Staudacher’s Temple rallied from 11th in the field of 12 to take second. The son of Temple City trained by Mike Maker outfinished Michael Hui, Hooties Racing and WSS Racing’s Media Blitz , a Maker stablemate, by three-quarters of a length to secure the place spot.
Bred in Kentucky by Rosilyn Polan, Abaan is a half brother to the grade 3-placed Chip Leader and the lone stakes winner from nine foals for his dam, who has a City of Light 2-year-old colt and an Omaha Beach yearling filly. He was bought for $280,000 from his breeder by Shadwell Estate at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and turned in three races for Shadwell before he was acquired by his current connections.