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Trainer Profile: Maria Pascual
The 24-year-old Maria Pascual's world became topsy-turvy when she arrived in Florida from her native Argentina to train six racehorses in November 2000.
Of course, she already knew that December and January, the warmest months in Argentina, were wintertime in the United States. Pascual also recognized that Southern Hemisphere horses, whose birthdays fall in July, not January, automatically become a year older when they arrive in the States.
Although she had been training horses at Argentino de Palermo, a historic racetrack in Buenos Aires that opened in 1876, for four years before emigrating, Pascual wasn't at all prepared for the dramatic changes she faced in American racing.
Initially, for example, Pascual was puzzled why the Argentine horses she was given to train performed so miserably at Gulfstream Park. She also couldn't figure out why the same dosage of Lasix that was effective back home didn't prevent her horses from bleeding in Florida.
"Everything was very different," recalled Pascual, now 30, who has a string of about 28 horses stabled at Delaware Park. "The tracks here are much more heavy and deep. I would breeze my horses twice a week in Argentina, but I had to learn to breeze them only once a week here. We had to change everything. The first couple of months, all my horses ran bad."
The daughter of Domingo Pascual, one of Argentina's leading trainers, and the grand-daughter of the accomplished trainer Elias Pascual, Maria wasn't about to give up and go home. She simply made some major adjustments.
After watching her horses consistently get outrun in allowances at Gulfstream, Pascual found out there are claiming races - a category that doesn't exist in Argentina - for those animals in need of class relief. The low amount of Lasix that worked fine in Buenos Aires was insufficient for the hot, humid climate of south Florida, so she had to double the dosage.
Fearing that a complete stranger to America would never be granted stall space, Pascual banked on her father's reputation as a highly successful South American trainer to get her foot in the door at Florida's racetracks. She got stalls using his name as the trainer of record and ran horses under his name for a year. Pascual saddled her first winner, Bandidzaro, in a $16,000 claiming race at Hialeah in March 2001. She recovered from an initial two-month winless streak to go 6 for 29 for the year with a healthy $3.84 return on investment.
Racing horses under her own name beginning in 2002, Pascual posted positive ROI's of $3.76, $2.66, and $2.55 for the next years. Her win percentage and ROI dropped last season, understandable because she took off from late April until October while pregnant with her first child. Juan Vazquez, the child's father and Pascual's assistant trainer, filled in during her absence.
Their daughter, Sophia, was born last Dec. 21, and Pascual returned to fully oversee the stable operation when Delaware's season opened in late April. She's able to spend the time she needs with the horses during training hours and at the races in the afternoon, thanks to her mother Martha's willingness to care for the baby.
Off to a slow 4-for-29 start (through June 14) in 2006, Pascual should begin to make more of an impact this summer at Delaware. Eight fillies from California, including the stakes-caliber turf runner Royal Wave, recently arrived at her barn. She also has the 7-year-old mare Miss Victory back in training, preparing for her first start since last July. Miss Victory, a Group 1 winner in Argentina, provided Pascual with her first U.S. stakes win last year at Gulfstream.
Pascual does some of her best work with horses stretching out from sprints to routes (8 for 26, $2.65 ROI since 2003) and dirt route runners returning after a layoff of 31 to 60 days (7 for 38, $3.40 ROI).
Pascual explained how she tells a horse might want more ground.
"If I see on paper that the horse does not show much speed but tries to improve at the end of a 5 1/2- or six-furlong race, and if I see how he gallops in the morning and he shows good action, then that horse is likely to need more distance," Pascual said.
She follows a particular routine with horses she intends to send long following a layoff.
"I like to breeze horses the way we do in Argentina," Pascual said. "I have them breeze two times at three furlongs, two times at four furlongs, two times at five furlongs, and then about 15 to 20 days from when they are going to race, a long breeze at the distance they are going to go in the race."
Although Pascual has proven adept with horses in claiming routes (26 for 125, $2.65 ROI), she wants to improve the quality of her stock to get more allowance and stakes horses in her barn.
INSIDE THE STABLE
|Horse||Age/Sex||Last race||Finish||Last 3 Beyers||Career record||Earnings|
|Miss Victory||7M||Light Hearted Hdcp||9||566590||28-14-4-3||$113,275|
|Tour of the Cat||8G||Brandywine||6||798896||46-12-11-6||$889,641|
|Indian Lotus||7H||OC50k||4||92 8494||24-7-1-2||$104,988|
|First North American Start||5||0.20||2.76|
|1st race after claim||23||0.13||1.47|
|2nd race after claim||19||0.11||0.62|
|1st race with trainer||58||0.17||1.49|
|+180 days since last race||12||0.17||1.45|
|60-180 days since last race||25||0.08||0.61|
|Second off layoff 45-180 days||36||0.19||1.44|
|Second off layoff +180 days||11||0.18||1.09|
|1-7 days since last race||2||0.00||0.00|
|1st time starter||8||0.00||0.00|
|2nd start as maiden||4||0.00||0.00|
|Maiden special to maiden claimer||1||0.00||0.00|
|1st time turf||2||0.00||0.00|
|1st time blinkers||3||0.33||2.80|
|1st time Lasix||6||0.17||2.30|
|Dirt to turf||17||0.06||0.29|
|Turf to dirt||18||0.11||3.04|
|Sprint to route||19||0.26||1.78|
|Route to sprint||11||0.18||1.49|
|31-60 days since last race||79||0.16||1.46|
|Won last start||54||0.24||2.87|
|Maiden special weight||1||1.00||3.60|
|Debut in a maiden claiming race||8||0.00||0.00|
Trainer statistics reflect North American starts from Jan. 1, 2005 through June 18 2006