News and STORIES

Athenia Gives Irish Xenobia First North American Win

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Tuesday October 22, 2019
Augustin Stable's Xenobia took the Grade 3, $200,000 Athenia for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up at Belmont Park on Sunday. She moved ahead at the half-mile mark and was able to hold off a challenge by Sweet Bye and Bye to win by 1 1/2 lengths. 

The Athenia was Xenobia's first North American win in three starts, and it was her graded stakes debut outside of Ireland. 

The Running

At the start of the race, the 45-1 Candy Store moved ahead of the eight-horse field. She crossed the opening quarter-mile in 23.67 seconds on inner turf labeled firm. 

Xenobia broke from the outside post with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. He pushed the horse forward and commanded her while they began to gain separation. They went a half-mile in 47.46, and they eventually opened up a six-length lead with three-quarters in 1:10.85.

As the field made its way through the stretch, Velazquez kept driving with Xenobia. Sweet Bye and Bye and Andina Del Sur tried to challenge and move up from the outside, but it wasn't enough to pass up the leader. 

Xenobia, the 5-year-old Falco mare, finished 1 1/16 miles with a final time of 1:41.21. It was her first win with trainer Jonathan Thomas. 

Xenobia came into the Athenia at 7-1 odds. 

Thomas spoke about her performance after the race. 

"We were hoping he (Velazquez) would go ahead and be aggressive," Thomas said. "Assertive is probably the right word. She's a big, galloping filly and I thought the rain would really help us today because she likes a little cut in the ground. It was a beautiful ride. His ride into the first turn was a masterpiece. That's where I think he won the race."

North American Career

Xenobia's career earnings are now at $246,606. She took the Group 3 Brownstown in July 2018 at Fairyhouse Racecourse, and she won four of her first 10 starts in Europe before moving over to North America. She opened up her North American career with a fourth-place finish against allowance company at Belmont on June 23. She then went on to finish second to Scottish Jig at Belmont on Sept. 15 in a 1 1/8-mile turf route. 

The Athenia was Xenobia's first win in over 15 months, and it was Velazquez's first time with the horse. 

"She got to the lead and put her ears up," Velazquez said. "They were coming at her, but she was running at the same time, so I was comfortable that she was at least finishing. Talking to Jonathan, he thought she probably needed her last race. That helped her stepping up to this race, and it worked out perfect. I just happened to get to her at the right time."

The Rest of the Field

The second-place spot was taken by the Steve Klesaris-trained Sweet Bye and Bye. She finished a half-length ahead of Andina Del Sur. Jockey Jose Ortiz was onboard Sweet Bye and Bye. 

"She broke very well," said Ortiz. "At the half-mile pole, I wanted to get going, but it was hard in the soft ground. I had to wait a little later than I wanted, but no excuses. The winner was very good today."

The rest of the field was completed by Victorine, 8-5 favorite Simply Breathless, Candy Store, Matty's Magnum, and Pepper Sprout. Arabella Bella was a scratch. 

Xenobia returned $16.40 on a $2 win wager. 

The Belmont fall meet will begin its final week on Wednesday with an eight-race card.