Wesley Ward wasn’t sure about Stillwater Cove. The daughter of Quality Road looked awkward and gangly, like she wanted a route of ground. Then, she worked at Turfway Park Feb. 15. Ward was sure.
Ward’s right-hand man, exercise rider/jockey Julio Garcia settled the long-striding bay filly behind another horse, pulled her out and booked her ticket to Royal Ascot. Yes, it was that good.
“She sat behind another filly that had worked and just went phhhwwww,” Ward said. “A blind man could have seen that, I couldn’t believe it.”
Stillwater Cove won her debut at Keeneland in April, but it was backward as she opened up a big lead under Garcia and just lasted to win by a nose. At Royal Ascot in June, she did the same thing, running off with Joel Rosario and failing to see out the 6-furlong trip and winding up 13th in the Albany.
Ward regrouped, tempering Stillwater Cove with three half-mile breezes over the turf at Keeneland to set her up for the Bolton Landing at Saratoga Wednesday. Set up, knock down. Owned by Marcus Stable, Stillwater Cove produced a polished effort to beat stablemate Chelsea Cloisters by 1 3/4 lengths in the $100,000 turf sprint. Under Irad Ortiz Jr., Stillwater Cove finished 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.26.
“I love this filly. I really love her. She got off track, Julio rode her in her first race and gunned her, she opened up by 8 and won by a nose, we’ve worked really, really hard on trying to get her to relax and come from off the pace to get her to go in the Albany,” Ward said. “The Albany is 6 furlongs but it’s like a mile-and-a-sixteenth, you have to have a pure router to win that race. You can’t have any speed and unfortunately she got away from Joel as well. Julio has been working really, really hard trying to get her to relax, he did a great job and so did Irad.”
To read the rest of the Bolton Landing recap, download Thursday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by EasyFix Stable Solutions.