Sycamore Stable's Nellie Cashman got her first view of the historic Twin Spires of Churchill Downs on Friday morning when she galloped around the Louisville, Kentucky, track in preparation for her run in Saturday evening's Grade 2, $175,000 Mrs. Revere for three-year-old fillies on the turf.
The filly arrived at Churchill on Thursday evening, and trainer Francis Abbott III is scheduled to arrive Friday night for his first visit to the home of the Kentucky Derby.
"I have never set foot in Churchill Downs, so this is going to be my maiden voyage," Abbott said Friday by telephone.
Abbott and his filly have a chance for a memorable debut at the track as Nellie Cashman is rated as the 9-2 third choice in the field of 14 in handicapper Mike Battaglia's morning-line for the 1 1/16-mile race on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Mineshaft has really yet to offer a poor performance in 10 career starts. She has finished worse than fourth once, and that happened in a race in which another horse fell in front of her.
She took her game up a notch, though, when Abbott moved the dark bay lass to the grass five stars back and enters the Mrs. Revere off three strong stakes performances. Her record on the surface is 2-2-1.
"It was a surprise to see her take to the grass, but not so much her ability," Abbott stated. "We've always really, really liked her."
Nellie Cashman won the Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs over runner-up Praia, who will face her again in the Mrs. Revere, then edged Caroline Thomas in the Lake Placid at Saratoga before being disqualified to third by the stewards for interference in the stretch. She'll enter Saturday's "Downs After Dark" co-feature under the lights off a runner-up finish in Keeneland's Valley View on October 18.
"Before the Saratoga race, if you had said to me if you finished third would you be happy, I would have said 'Absolutely,'" Abbott admitted. "She came back and she keeps running hard every time. She's such a consistent filly. She's had a hard season, but this race -- taking on three-year-old fillies going long on the turf -- is absolutely the logical spot for her to end the season."
Every race holds the potential for traffic problems, but that possibility is magnified when 14 horses break from the starting gate. Nellie Cashman has displayed a stalking running style in all of her turf starts and Abbott believes that will be an advantage for his filly.
"I think she's got enough tactical speed," Abbott declared. "She tends to break well enough and she wants to put herself in the race. She should put herself in behind the speed."
Abbott's filly will be ridden by another newcomer to Churchill Downs. Forest Boyce, a finalist for the Eclipse Award for apprentice jockey in 2010, will make her local debut aboard Nellie Cashman.