12/19/2015 5:01PM

Ishaq wins Inaugural Stakes despite limited vision

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Ishaq, with Pedro Cotto Jr. aboard, beats Formal Summation by a neck in the Inaugural Stakes on Saturday.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – The heavily favored Ishaq had the fans in the grandstand and even jockey Pedro Cotto Jr. holding their breath in the final yards of the $67,500 Inaugural Stakes on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, where he led from start to finish and barely held off Formal Summation to win by a neck.

Ishaq was favored after scoring by 10 1/4 lengths in his career debut here Nov. 28, with Cotto barely urging the horse in the stretch. But it was a far different scenario Saturday. Cotto and winning trainer Efren Loza Jr. said the horse jumped in the gate, which caused his blinkers to slip out of position. Cotto said that around the eighth pole, Ishaq seemed to get scared because he couldn’t see clearly, momentarily slowing down and nearly losing the four-length lead he had at the top of the stretch.

“Something was wrong with the blinkers down the lane, which is why he took a couple of bad steps, but I had plenty of horse to win the race,” Cotto said. “He’s a nice horse. At the eighth pole, the horse got scared and completely lost momentum, but he figured it out in two jumps. When he heard the other horses coming, he rebroke, but he couldn’t see.”  

Ishaq ($3.40) led the field of 11 juvenile colts and geldings through a quarter-mile in 22.45 seconds and a half-mile in 45.45 before stopping the clock for six furlongs in 1:11.04. Formal Summation, ridden by Ronnie Allen Jr., finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Jay’s Way, who was third under Antonio Gallardo. 

Loza said Ishaq will be pointed to the $100,000 Pasco Stakes for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs here Jan. 23. The son of Harlan’s Holiday is a homebred for St George Stables and has earned $39,900 through two starts.

“I think he’s a horse that can go long,” Loza said. “I think it was too quick a pace, and he can go at an easier pace at a different distance. I’ll try to go seven furlongs in the Pasco, and after that, we can see if we can go two turns.”