Abbondanza, one of the top sprinters in the country in 2004, returned to form yesterday to win the six-furlong, $85,000 Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel Park.
After a year of bothersome foot problems, Abbondanza, the 5-year-old son of Alphabet Soup, seems to have again found firm ground. Though jockey Enrique Jurado said he had to steady his horse through the turn, the pair quickly made their way to the outside for an impressive stretch drive. They won in 1 minute, 11.41 seconds by 1 1/4 lengths over Crafty Schemer, a 25-1 shot, in the eight-horse field that included four stakes winners.
"Once we got into the clean air, off we went," said Abbondanza's trainer Tim Tullock, Jr., who described his horse's run as "exactly what I wanted."
Trainer Dale Capuano's horse Dale's Prospect finished third, followed by Acclimate and race favorite Saay Mi Name, who never challenged for the lead.
"We had a decent trip but he was not himself today," said Saay Mi Name jockey Art Madrid Jr. "He is a better horse than that ... I thought he could have run a little better. He was flat."
There was nothing flat about Abbondanza. He saved ground early and when Jurado asked him to go, he went.
"My intention was to keep him relaxed and my horse's trainer told me to let the speed go," Jurado said.
Abbondanza, who paid $9.60, $5.20 and $4.40, now has career earnings of $355,395. He has seven wins, three seconds and four thirds in 20 starts, but in 2005 the big, chestnut-colored horse was off his game, winning just twice in eight starts, primarily because of foot problems developed while he was given a rest from racing last spring.
When he returned to the races in May 2005, the difficulty with his shoes became apparent. But over the months, Tullock said he and the blacksmith have found a way around the problem.
"He came back from the farm with his feet messed up," Tullock said of the problem. "It was a care issue. ... His feet will always be an issue. He's not cured, but he's wearing glued-on shoes and that has helped. It means no nails in his somewhat soft feet."
Tullock said he will nominate Abbondanza for the Grade II $300,000 General George Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 20, but probably will not run him in the race.
"We've got a long year ahead of us," said Tullock, who loves to campaign 5-year-olds like Abbondanza, who are reaching their peak. "We've tried graded company and not been successful. What I'd like is to get him on the grass this summer."