By Tom LaMarra
Sycamore Racing V’s Jessica Krupnick, one of the leading horses as the 2018 MATCH Series nears its conclusion, is a product of a successful Pennsylvania partnership endeavor that began in 2011 and has a few graded stakes victories on its ledger.
Franny Abbott of Abbott Bloodstock in West Chester, Pa., and his son, Tres Abbott III, a Fair Hill-based trainer, purchased two yearling fillies that year and one of them, Nellie Cashman, became a graded stakes winner of almost $350,000 in four seasons of racing. They also arranged for the purchase of the Irish-bred filly Medea, who also went on to win a graded stakes after her arrival in the United States.
“Originally, it was put together to get horses from Europe,” Tres Abbott said. “The following year my father put together a syndicate to help me get off the ground as a trainer. The first year was fun—it was basically a lot of family and friends I had known for a long time. Everybody supported me, and it just picked up and steamrolled.”
Nellie Cashman, a $75,000 RNA at the Keeneland September yearling sale, won the grade III Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs and the Dahlia Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. She also finished second in the grade III Valley View Stakes at Keeneland and third in the grade III Ballston Spa Stakes at Saratoga Race Course for regular rider Forest Boyce.
In 2013, as a follow-up to her Virginia Oaks victory, Nellie Cashman crossed the wire first in the grade II Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga but the stewards disqualified her to third for interference. It was a tough beat, but it didn’t take away from the filly’s quality.
“We’ve purchased two yearling fillies each year except last year,” Abbott said. “It has worked out pretty well. Our budget is always under $100,000, and we stay with fillies because of their residual value (in the breeding shed).”
Abbott won his first race as a trainer in 2010 in his first start with Brushwood Stable’s Pink Palace at Laurel Park. He previously had worked for trainers such as Todd Pletcher, Aidan O’Brien and Michael Stoute, and is closing in on the $3 million mark in earnings.
As for Jessica Krupnick, a 5-year-old Uncle Mo mare purchased for $45,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, she has improved with age. Abbott said part of that has to do with issues not uncommon with young horses.
“She had some shin problems as a 2-year-old,” he said. “I liked her when she breezed, but she had some things niggling her. Michael Stoute is known for having horses that improve as they get older, and he liked to take his time with them. So I decided to give her some time to grow up.
“We shipped her to Florida to get started again (for her 3-year-old season, in which she won two races), and then she got hurt early in her 4-year-old season and needed time off. The good thing is the members of our syndicate understand about horses needing time, and when nice people stand behind you, it works out.”
Jessica Krupnick returned in October after the long layoff and raced twice last fall. When the calendar turned to 2018, she won allowance races at Laurel and Parx Racing to start her season and then, because she trains on Tapeta at Fair Hill, Abbott shipped the mare to Woodbine for the grade III Whimsical Stakes at six furlongs.
Jessica Krupnick set a fast pace on the Tapeta surface and just failed to last—she finished fourth beaten only three-quarters of a length against the top Ontario filly and mare sprinters in late April. In June she began her MATCH Series quest—a second in the Regret Stakes at Monmouth Park, a win in the Dashing Beauty Stakes at Delaware Park and a third in the Satin and Lace Stakes at Presque Isle Downs & Casino.
She has 22 points in the Filly and Mare Sprint—Dirt Division heading into the final leg, the $100,000 Roamin Rachel Stakes at Parx Sept. 15. The long trip from Fair Hill to Erie, Pa., in mid-August paid off, as it gave Jessica Krupnick five more points, more than enough to take the MATCH division title with one race remaining.
The leading horse in each division wins $25,000 for the owner and $15,000 for the trainer. The overall championship is worth $50,000 to the owner and $25,000 to the trainer.
The Roamin Rachel attracted a field of nine including Liz’s Cable Girl, who needs one more MATCH Series start to qualify for bonus money. She is guaranteed second ($15,000 to the owner and $10,000 to the trainer) in her division if she starts.
Liz’s Cable Girl, trained by Pat McBurney at Monmouth Park and owned by John Cocce, Lisbeth Dodd, Peter Donnelly and Gerard Melley, also would garner a $5,000 bonus for her breeder, Colonial Farms, from the Thoroughbred Breeders Association of New Jersey.
Should Jessica Krupnick earn the maximum number of points in the Roamin Rachel—10 for a victory and 5 bonus points for her fourth start in the division—she’ll be the one to catch. Three stakes at Laurel will also decide MATCH titles by division and overall championship, but they got pushed back a week to Sept. 22 because of concerns over the possible impact of Hurricane Florence.
“If we can do anything and also pick up the 5 bonus points—and maybe get a win—it puts the pressure on everyone else, but we’ll have to sweat it out for a week,” Abbott said with a laugh. “This series has been really good for the smaller guys in the business around here, and it has also been good from a publicity standpoint for us.”