09/06/2011 12:06PM

Calder: Fuller shows her old form in winning ride


MIAMI – There were no cheering crowds, no cameras clicking or media types waiting to record her every word when Abigail Fuller walked A. J.’s Hot Mambo into the winner’s circle after guiding the filly to her maiden win in Sunday’s finale at Calder. The scene certainly was nothing like what greeted Fuller 26 years earlier, during the summer of 1985, when she brought Mom’s Command into the winner’s circle following victories in the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club Oaks to sweep New York’s filly triple crown.

A. J.’s Hot Mambo was just the second mount Fuller, 52, has accepted in nine years. The first came this spring when she rode Stone In Love to a second place finish in the Lady Legends race to benefit the Susan G. Komen Fund for breast cancer awareness on Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico.

Like Mom’s Command, A. J.’s Hot Mambo is owned by Fuller’s father, Peter Fuller. Abigail Fuller first teamed up with the 3-year-old A. J.’s Hot Mambo this past spring when she took over the training of the high-spirited filly from Milt Wolfson.

A. J.’s Hot Mambo is a homebred by Black Mambo and is the younger sister of Annabill and Trip for A.J., both of whom are eight-time stakes winners trained by Wolfson for Peter Fuller. When Wolfson had to make room under his shed several months ago for some newly arrived 2-year-olds, Abby volunteered to work with her dad’s filly, whom she moved into the barn of trainer Ron Gaffney, a longtime friend and fellow New Englander.

“Working with this filly was a little unexpected, but Milt had a lot of young horses coming in and she needed more time and a lot of special attention,” said Fuller. “The neat thing was that I was able to move her in with Ronnie and his wife, Emmy. I already had plans to be in California during the month of July and I knew they’d take great care of her while I was away.”

Fuller began galloping and breezing A. J.’s Hot Mambo on a regular basis prior to going to California, although she said the idea of actually riding the filly in a race seriously came about only over the last several weeks.

“Riding that race in Maryland was so much fun and I was a little surprised how good I felt,” said Fuller of the Lady Legends race. “I didn’t get exhausted and I felt myself getting even fitter when I started working with this filly. I rode P.J. Lydon on her the previous time and she raced a lot better for her than she had been running. But then P.J. got hurt – she broke her arm – and I was going to need to find a new rider. That was like the final push that made me decide to ride her myself.”

Fuller said she spent extra time in the gym as well as working on the Equicizer, a mechanical horse that simulates actually riding in a race, to get as fit as she could for just her second mount in nine years.

“I tacked 105 pounds when I first started riding and 108 after my third kid, but had to struggle to make the 118 pounds on Sunday,” said Fuller. “I had to borrow my son Jorge’s little saddle to do it. I’m bigger, stronger and, yes, older now than I was back then. But I wasn’t nervous going out there on Sunday and I was confident she would run well.”

Fuller showed no signs of rust and looked like a poised veteran on A. J.’s Hot Mambo, rating her back off a three-horse speed duel then easing her around the tiring leaders to draw off to a convincing triumph at odds of 11-1.

“She’s still a work in progress but she’s definitely maturing and improving and she relaxed nicely for me, which was a relief,” said Fuller. “And I thought it was great that Milt was one of the first to come over and congratulate me afterwards.”

Fuller said she has no plans to hire an agent or to go out and solicit more mounts on her own, although she said she would consider riding other horses besides A. J.’s Hot Mambo under the right circumstances.

“Gaffney wants me to ride a couple of his horses I get on in the morning and it’s not out of the question that I might if it’s the right horse in the right spot,” said Fuller.

And how does she compare this latest experience with winning the New York triple tiara at the age of 26, more than a quarter of a century earlier?

“In some ways it seems like it was 100 years ago when I rode Mom’s Command, but in other ways it doesn’t feel like it’s been nearly that long,” said Fuller. “Riding races hasn’t really changed all that much. Naturally, winning with Mom was a great highlight, but riding in that race in Maryland with all those great girls was cool and so was winning this race with my kids and friends there to cheer me on. I just feel very, very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to do this again.”