01/06/2016 2:28PM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Wavell Avenue

Barbara D. Livingston
A Breeders’ Cup winner can come from almost anywhere, but the ranks of maiden claimers is one of the less common sources. Wavell Avenue, a winner of a maiden-claiming race early in her career at Belmont Park, made such remarkable progress in the span of one year that she ended her 4-year-old campaign with a victory Oct. 31 in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Keeneland.

“We were really confident if she got a strong pace, she could get there,” trainer Chad Brown said after Wavell Avenue rallied from 11th to win the definitive race in the division. “It’s a thrill to be here. I’m so proud of her.”

Bred in Ontario by Eugene Melnyk, Wavell Avenue, by Harlington, is owned by the four-way partnership of Michael Dubb, David Simon, Head of Plains Partners LLC, and Bethlehem Stables LLC. Purchased by the partnership for $70,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July horses of racing age sale, her racing career began in late August 2014 with a defeat against maidens, and by her third start, she was entered for a $40,000 claiming price.

She was easily best in that Oct. 22, 2014, race and steadily improved from there, never to be risked again for a tag. To start her 4-year-old season, she won a first-level allowance Jan. 1 at Aqueduct, then took three more races to get through her second condition. After two decent tries in restricted stakes company, the dark bay filly narrowly won a third-level allowance at Saratoga in late August, which was followed Sept. 26 by a real wake-up call: a hard-closing runner-up finish behind La Verdad in the Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park, a Grade 2 race that set her up for a career-defining moment.

Indeed, the Breeders’ Cup was a thing of beauty. Carrying Dubb’s familiar yellow-and-pink silks while trailing all but a few of her 13 opponents down the backstretch of the seven-furlong race, Wavell Avenue settled into a nice rhythm for Joel Rosario, her regular rider during the second half of the year. Leaving the turn, still some seven lengths behind the leaders, Wavell Avenue swung out from behind a wall of horses and into the clear. From there, she powered home with a flourish, passing six horses, the last one being La Verdad, and prevailing by 1 3/4 lengths as a 10-1 outsider. “I had a perfect trip,” said Rosario. “She gave me a big kick down the lane.”

For 2015, Wavell Avenue won 4 of 9 starts and $787,667, bringing her career totals to 6 for 13 and $853,725. The partners intend to race her at age 5 in 2016, as the mare was set to resume light training for Brown at the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida early in the year.