07/13/2013 7:24PM

Colonial: Nellie Cashman handles big class jump in surprise Virginia Oaks victory

Coady Photography
Jockey Forest Boyce collects her first graded stakes victory aboard 19-1 longshot Nellie Cashman in the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks.

Nellie Cashman needed seven starts and a drop into Pennsylvania-bred company at Penn National to finally clear her maiden condition. But she didn’t need any further experience to succeed in a graded stakes.

Lightly regarded because of her 1-for-7 record and low-profile connections, Nellie Cashman ($41.20) provided trainer Francis “Tres” Abbott and jockey Forest Boyce with their first career graded stakes victories in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs.

“We always liked her,” said Abbott, 30, who learned his craft as a horseman by working for Aidan O’Brien and Michael Stoute in England and Todd Pletcher at Palm Meadows in Florida. “She finished second to a nice filly of Graham’s [Motion] and we wanted to find a real soft spot for her where she could get her confidence. She came out of that race great and we thought we’d take a shot in the Virginia Oaks.”

Abbott, whose first win came at Laurel Park in November 2010, had previously gone 0 for 11 in stakes.  He did send out Shimmering Moment to a runner-up finish in last summer’s Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park.

Boyce, who had ridden Nellie Cashman three times previously without winning, said she was a little concerned when her filly was sitting 2 1/2 lengths off an extremely slow early pace of 52.21 seconds for a half-mile.

“I wanted to be a little closer,” Boyce said. “They were walking.”

Nellie Cashman, a daughter of Mineshaft owned by Sycamore Racing, got within a length of pacesetter Three Hearts after six furlongs in 1:16.98 and put her head in front with a furlong remaining in the 1 1/8-mile Oaks. She relinquished the lead briefly before making a final surge to hold off fast-closing 2-1 favorite Praia by a half-length. Three Hearts finished third, a nose behind the runner-up, at 9-2. Nellie Cashman completed the nine furlongs over good turf in 1:52.86.

* Al Qasr ($7), taking a distinct class drop following three graded stakes appearances, won his first race since coming to the United States from South America in the $50,000 Kittens Joy. Ridden by substitute rider Ben Creed, Al Qasr ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:30,90, winning by a length over Target Sighted. He galloped out badly and was vanned off the track, but trainer Ken McPeek reported that the horse was fine after being treated for heat stroke.

The 5-year-old Al Qasr was a Group 1 winner going 1 1/2 miles over heavy ground in Argentina last year.

Silvertonguedtommy ($11.20), making his turf debut, overtook uncoupled stablemate My Corinthian, the 6-5 favorite, to win the $50,000 Chenery for 2-year-olds by a head. Ridden by Gary Cruise for trainer Dane Kobiskie and PTK Llc, Silvertonguedtommy covered 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.88.

Thank You Marylou ($5.40), a first-time starter from the powerful connections of trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, romped in the $50,000 Tippett for 2-year-old fillies. She ran 5 1/2 furlongs under substitute rider Alan Garcia in 1:06.04.