by Teresa Genaro
While her owner was off drag racing on Saturday afternoon, Estrechada was winning a race of her own, getting her first stakes win in the Waya Stakes (G3) at Saratoga.
Estrechada was making just her second start for Slugo Racing, the nom de course of National Hot Rod Association driver Steve Gasparelli. After beginning her racing career on dirt in Argentina, the dark bay/brown mare was transferred to the barn of Mike Puype last fall. Winless in four starts, she sold privately just days before shipping to Belmont in July to run in the River Memorial Stakes, in which she finished sixth.
Kept well off the pace in the 12-furlong Waya, Estrechada saved ground under new Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, riding the rail as the horses completed the first circumference of an inner turf course rated firm despite a drenching rain storm earlier in the day.
Edging into the two-path, Castellano was in no hurry to take on the leaders, waiting until the horses turned for home to ask the daughter of Offlee Wild to run. With a clear path in front of her, run Estrechada did, using a swift turn of foot to easily pass the leaders and win by a half-length.
“She can run all day,” Castellano said.
The win was the mare’s first on turf, a surface on which she’s made four of her first five U.S. starts. Ral Ayers, Puype’s assistant, said that the distance, not the surface, is the primary consideration in choosing her races.
“We couldn’t find the distance for her on the West Coast,” Ayers said. “It’s all about finding the race at the distance.”
Puype suggested the cross-country trip to Gasparelli, who wasn’t on hand to get his first stakes win because of a commitment to race in Spokane, Washington.
Gasparelli is new to horse racing, having run his first horse in 2014 and only 44 starts lifetime. According to Ayers, the race car driver is an enthusiastic horseplayer and owner, regularly attending the races and coming to the barn in the morning.
On July 26, Gasparelli purchased the sale topper at the Barretts Paddock Sale at Del Mar, paying $180,000 for a two-year-old colt by Animal Kingdom out of the Storm Cat mare Alyssum.
He has about 18 horses with Puype.
“I wish he could have been here,” Ayers said. “This is big for him. He’d have been over the top.”