Abacus Andy was an instant success on turf yesterday in the Ben Cohen Stakes, and promising 19-year-old jockey J. Z. Santana created quite a stir by riding 49-1 choice Captive Dancer to victory in the fourth race at Pimlico.
Abacus Andy outran the favorite Sport d'Hiver by 1 1/4 lengths to win the $58,200 feature, but he almost never got on the track for his first start on turf.
Trainer John Alecci said he considered scratching the 4-year-old gelding several times.
Alecci had seen all the obstacles facing the horse he had just claimed for $25,000 on May 7 at Pimlico and wanted out.
Abacus Andy was a 28-1 choice, was starting out of the extreme outside post at and the feature race was only five furlongs.
"I felt I should hold him back for a later race," Alecci said. "He seemed to have gone off [form], and he had taken some time off."
But Pimlico's vice president of racing, Lenny Hale, kept prodding Alecci to keep his horse in the race and finally persuaded the trainer not to scratch.
Alecci said: "He was bred to the turf, and I just took a shot."
Abacus Andy, ridden by Greg Hutton, was sixth in the backstretch, but moved up rapidly on the turn and came wide to get the lead.
"The post was bad," Hutton said. "But the trip shaped up good. We went wide, but I had a lot of horse when I asked him. I think he can go two turns on the grass."
Abacus Andy paid $59 to win, but some lucky bettors had already been spoiled by the young apprentice jockey Santana and Captive Dancer in the fourth race.
Santana, using his stick brilliantly, rode the 6-year-old bay mare to a stunning victory by a head over Amberlyn Brooke for a winning payoff of $100.60.
It was Santana's first victory at Pimlico in two weeks since he arrived from California, where he had been recruited to come east by agent Charlie Hadry Jr.
"The kid is a natural," Hadry said. "He hand-rode that horse the last 20 yards after switching his stick very well."
Hadry, 30, had spent his entire life in Maryland but decided to head to California last Jan. 1 to look for a bug rider and continue his brief career as an agent.
"I saw J.Z. the last week in January, and I had a lot of help from [jockey] Kent Desormeaux and his agent, Tony Matos, in getting J.Z. to join me," Hadry said.
Santana said yesterday he had a good feeling about Captive Dancer from the start.
"When we were galloping in the post parade, I felt a certain bounce and strength in her," Santana said. "She is a heavy horse, and I needed to be strong and firm on her. When I saw I had a chance to win, I decided to go for it. I've never ridden a 49-1 horse to a win before."
Pub Date: 5/25/98