09/24/2004 11:00PM

Sabiango slows down pace in Turf

JJ Zamaiko
Sabiango wins the Kentucky Cup Turf on Saturday at Kentucky Downs.

FRANKLIN, Ky. - Sabiango, ridden by Brice Blanc, led all the way on a slow pace before pulling away to a clear-cut victory Saturday over Rochester in the seventh running of the Grade 3 at Kentucky Downs.

Sabiango, a German-bred 6-year-old based in Southern California, was sent off the 13-10 favorite in the 1 1/2-mile KC Turf. He went to the front soon after the break and was under minimal pressure to hold off Rochester after drawing clear in the drive. The final margin was three lengths, with runner-up Rochester a half-length ahead of longshot Gottabeachboy in a field of six older horses.

"You had to love the way it went," said Tim Yakteen, who trains Sabiango for Monty Roberts of "The Horse Whisperer" fame.

For Yakteen, 40, a former longtime assistant to Charlie Whittingham and Bob Baffert, the KC Turf was his first race as a public trainer. He recently opened a 20-horse stable at Hollywood Park.

Sabiango, an upset winner of the Grade 1 Whittingham in June, returned $4.60 after finishing in 2:33.70 over firm turf. Rochester, the two-time defending champion who was the 2-1 second choice under Pat Day, completed a $2 exacta that returned just $9.20.

Jonathan Sheppard, trainer of Rochester, said he was keenly aware Sabiango was strolling along on an easy lead. The fractions were 53.99 seconds, 1:22.77, and 1:44.63 for a mile.

"There's not a whole lot you can do about it, because our horse isn't the kind you can rush," said Sheppard. "The best horse won this day."

Rochester won the KC Turf outright in 2002 and by disqualification last year.

Sabiango earned $124,000 from a $200,000 purse, lifting his bankroll to $828,333. Yakteen said he believes Sabiango is the lone active Thoroughbred racehorse that Roberts currently owns.

Two major contenders were early scratches from the Turf: Art Variety, who had not been training up to par in recent days, according to trainer Ken McPeek, and Quest Star, who was held out to make a possible run next Saturday in the $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup on dirt.