07/15/2017 10:17PM

Schaefer Memorial Stakes goes to ground-saving Eagle

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John Engelhardt
Eagle beat Fear the Cowboy and Mo Tom by a nose in the Schaefer Memorial Stakes on Saturday.

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – Eagle flew up the rail under Brian Hernandez Jr. to nip Fear the Cowboy and Mo Tom in an exciting renewal of the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes on Saturday night at Indiana Grand.

Last around the first turn, Eagle began gaining momentum about three furlongs from home, and when most of the field swung wide, Eagle cleaved to the fence, finished resolutely, and won for the first time in 2017.

“Everyone went out to the five path,” Hernandez said. “I thought, ‘How bad can it be down here?’”

It wasn’t bad at all, and the ground Hernandez saved probably made all the difference. Eagle paid $7.80 to win, and ran one mile 70 yards in 1:40.24.

A 5-year-old horse by Candy Ride and out of Sea Gull, by Mineshaft, Eagle was bred and is owned by Will Farish. Eagle came within a half-length of winning the Grade 1 Stephen Foster during the summer of 2016, but had struggled to find his form this year. He was a distant fourth in the New Orleans Handicap, his early-season goal, ran a little better when second in the Ben Ali at Keeneland, but was eighth, beaten 15 lengths, in the Pimlico Special, his last race before the Schaefer.

“I didn’t really have an excuse for him there,” said trainer Neil Howard. “It was hard to put your finger on what happened, but he came out of the race well, and we just went on with him.”

Bucchero made the Schaefer lead over Abraham and set moderate splits of 24.40 and 47.90, but neither horse at the front would play any final role. Fear the Cowboy and Mo Tom stalked the pace, and both wound up wide, with Mo Tom coming fastest the final half-furlong, and just running out of ground.

Not Eagle, who saved all the ground and got the money.