Joseph Sutton’s Scabbard, who finished second to huge favorite Dennis’ Moment in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes, had his penultimate work before the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Thursday, starting off behind two stablemates and finishing well to be timed the half-mile in 48 4/5 seconds.
“We were trying to give him a little target, just give him something to focus on,” trainer Eddie Kenneally said after the work. “He’s a horse that needs that. He’s a horse in his races that likes to come from off the pace. He doesn’t do a whole lot unless he has a target. He’s a pretty laid-back type of horse. He had two nice 2-year-olds in front of him, going a half-mile and galloping out five-eighths.
“He was very willing, and it worked out well. He sat out maybe four, five lengths behind them, finished with them and traveling very, very easily and doing it well. And he galloped out very well.”
Scabbard trains in a pair of pretty substantial blinkers, including during routine gallops.
“It really helped him when we put blinkers on and he became more engaged in what he was doing, more willing,” Kenneally said. “So we left them on. He trains in blinkers all the time, one of the few horses that train in blinkers for us.”
Scabbard has had three races, winning his debut impressively at Churchill Downs, followed by a second-place performance in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, then stretching out to 1 1/16 miles in the Iroquois.
“I don’t think he’s reach his full potential just yet,” Kenneally said. “I think he’s improving all the time. The (handicapping) numbers show that he has improved markedly from race one, which he won, to race two to race three. Hopefully we’ll see more improvement in his fourth start.
“He ran really well in the Iroquois, where he was second to one of the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. We were beaten a length and three-quarters and we didn’t have a great, great trip. We ran into some traffic on the turn at a vital part of the race, lost some momentum there. But he showed a little bit of courage and heart, and he kicked it back in again and passed a lot of horses from that point to the wire. It was a very good effort despite the bad trip.”
Mike Smith will ride Scabbard for the first time in the Juvenile.
Kenneally has a second Breeders’ Cup starter in Abscond, winner of Woodbine’s Grade 1 Natalma to earn a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf. Abscond won her debut at Ellis Park, then was second in a stakes in New York before shipping to Canada for the Natalma.
Abscond worked 48 4/5 seconds at Keeneland Friday morning in company of 2-year-old stablemate Hop Kat, who won her only start to date.
“She’s accomplished a lot in a short period of time,” Kenneally said of Abscond. “She’s also on the improve. I think both horses will be competitive in their individual races. They are coming into their races very well. Obviously it’s going to be a tougher test than what they’ve raced against previously. But I think both horses will be very competitive.”
Abscond, owned by Apogee Bloodstock and Mike Anderson, is the second Ellis Park-raced 2-year-old this year who has gone on to win a Grade 1 race. The Peter Miller-trained Nucky finished fourth in an Ellis maiden, then shipped to Del Mar to romp in a maiden race carrying a $100,000 claiming price before capturing the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity.
(Though they didn’t race at Ellis, Grade 1-winning 2-year-olds and Breeders’ Cup contenders Maxfield and British Idiom trained at the Henderson track for a substantial part of the summer.)
“Kentucky racing is on the upswing, as is Ellis Park,” Kenneally said. “We’re looking forward to more improvements for next year and hopefully bigger purses again. It’s already a substantial purse structure, but Kentucky racing is strong and we’re glad to be part of it.”