Story originally published on July 15, 2013, on DanonymousRacing.com
At 19-1, the odds of Nellie Cashman winning Saturday’s Virginia Oaks seemed even less likely than her namesake (a pioneering female prospector) chances of striking gold early last century. And who could blame the public for not backing this Nellie Cashman, a filly who had managed just one maiden-breaking win in seven career races?
“We we were just hoping to hit the board,” said jockey, Forest Boyce, speaking candidly after the race with DanonymousRacing.com.
So, when Nellie Cashman found herself in the catbird seat just behind pacesetter, Three Hearts, no one was more excited than Boyce. The only problem was that Three Hearts had set a slow (25.93, 52.21, 1:16.98) and pressure free pace with the hottest rider in racing aboard.
“Joel Rosario was just walking the dog,” Boyce said. “I was basically out there just riding for third… but when I felt how much horse I had left, I was like ‘oh, we have a chance to win!”
After engaging in a brief duel with Rosario and Three Hearts, Boyce and Cashman took the lead near the top of the stretch, only to lose it briefly while drifting out. But when Boyce went to the right handed whip, Nellie Cashman straightened and passed Three Hearts, with just enough left to hold off fast-closing race favorite, Praia, by half a length.
“I was in shock,” admitted Boyce, with a laugh. “I was just hoping the win would fall in my lap and the win fell in my lap.”
Nellie Cashman’s surprising victory was the first graded stakes win for both Boyce and the horse’s trainer, Francis Abbott III. As for Boyce, 28, the triumph at Colonial Downs came on the same track at which she won her first race in 2009, aboard a horse named, Colony Club.
“I later won a stakes race with that horse at Monmouth,” said Boyce. “I’ve won a plenty of stakes races and finished second and third in graded stakes but that was my first win… It was amazing.”
Boyce admitted she had a little more motivation to do well after being playfully antagonized by Nellie Cashman’s morning rider. According to Boyce, the rider told her “this needs a man to ride her… she needs to be man-handled.”
While it might’ve been said in jest, Boyce said, “it was all I could think about all day. I wanted to prove (him) wrong.”
Both Boyce and Nellie Cashman also proved the betting public wrong, returning $41.60, $17.40, and $7.60. It was the horse’s second win since switching to the turf three races back. Her only loss on the grass was her first attempt on it, when she was beaten by just half a length in a 14-horse field on the Black Eyed Susan Day under card at Pimlico.