Martini Glass makes Azeri biggest win of career

Azeri03.3-17-18.BL_Whatever trainer Keith Nations thought he saw in Martini Glass when he claimed the filly for $16,000 out of her career debut Feb. 20, 2016 at Tampa Bay Downs, he was right. And then some.

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Martini Glass won for the 10th time in 23 races and scored the biggest win of her career when she took the Grade 2, $350,000 Azeri Stakes by three resounding lengths Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

Actress, who broke slowly from the rail and finished with good energy, passed pace-setting Farrell for second. Farrell held well for the show after setting taxing splits of 23.15, 46.92, and 1:11.23, and turning for home still on the lead.

Martini Glass got an ideal trip under Paco Lopez in the Azeri and made the most of it. Racing behind Farell and pace-prompting Terra Promessa and hemmed in by Blue Prize, Martini Glass kept up nicely while drafting in the leader’s wake and saving ground. Lopez, sensing he had more horse than Blue Prize, tipped three paths off the fence while corning into the homestretch, bulling past a fading Blue Prize, quickly passing tiring Terra Promessa, and going up to engage Farrell.

Farrell dug in and still had the lead at the eighth pole, but Martini Glass was straight and strong, took her measure, and never looked like anything other than a winner through the final furlong. She was timed in 1:42.95 for the 1 1/16 miles over a fast track and paid $8.80 to win.

“Paco knows her so well,” Nations said. “He had her in a great position. We got to the lead pretty early, and I was a little nervous, but she finished up really well.”

Nations, who winters at Tampa Bay, is part owner of Martini Glass with Vince Campanella. The mare first hit the national radar when she finished second to Songbird last summer in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap, but she appears to have hit a new peak this winter, and the Azeri win came following a fine third in the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and a last-out win in the Royal Delta Stakes at Gulfstream.

Martini Glass has a turf-leaning pedigree, by Kitalpha and out of the Run Softly mare Glassy, and has raced well on grass, but she appears to have found her true calling on dirt. She ran her career mark to 10-5-2 from 23 starts, and the $210,000 winner’s share of the purse ran her bankroll to $863,675 – not bad for a $16,000 claim.

Nations said Martini Glass is a likely runner next month in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn.

“There’s probably a pretty good chance of that,” he said. “We’ll ship her back to Tampa, give her an easy week and evaluate her. If everything looks good we’ll plan on coming back.”

And why not? They might not yet have gotten to the bottom of this mare Martini Glass.