STICKNEY, Ill. — The last time Awesome Gem shipped out of California to run 1 1/4 miles in mud it was the fall 2007. Awesome Gem ran well, finishing third in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic to Horse of the Year, Curlin. Suffice it to say: There were no Curlins in the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Saturday at muddy Hawthorne Race Course. And this time, Awesome Gem was the star of the show, coming out at the top of the stretch to wear down Nite Light and win the¬†1 1/4-mile Gold Cup by 1 1/4 lengths.
Wins have come infrequently for Awesome Gem, a 6-year-old gelding: This was only his second victory since 2007. But Awesome Gem has been based at California throughout the state’s ongoing synthetic-track era, and it is beginning to look like Awesome Gem might be better on dirt than anything else. On turf and synthetic, he has won 2 of 21 starts, and after his win Saturday, Awesome Gem has won 4 of his 9 on dirt, with two seconds and a third.
Testing conditions did not bother him in the least Saturday, and like his sire, Gold Cup winner Awesome Again, Awesome Gem showed mastery of the 1 1/4-mile trip. While Shadowbdancing crossed over from post 7 to make the pace, Awesome Gem, typically a deep closer, took jockey David Flores quickly into the race. He was seventh after a half-mile, but trailed Shadowbdancing’s moderate pace (24.17 seconds to the quarter-mile, 48.60 to the half) by only about six lengths.
“I wasn’t that surprised he was so close,” said Flores. “He worked so good last week.”
Skimming along the inside, Flores said he faced a key moment going into the far turn.
“I had to make a decision,” he said. “Put the horse in that pocket, or wait a little longer and see what happened.”
Flores decided to go. It helped that he had plenty of horse underneath to take him there. Awesome Gem got through the hole with no problem, and after straightening away, Flores tipped out three wide to make his final run. Shadowbdancing could not see out the 1 1/4 miles, and though Nite Light fought on, Awesome Gem clearly was going best. He drew away late, and won going away in 2:04.36. Awesome Gem, the favorite, paid $8.40.
Nite Light, wide into the first turn, stayed on well for second, and could easily wind up in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, said Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. Going Ballistic rallied from last to finish third, with You and I Forever fourth. Jonesboro floundered in the muddy going, jockey Cliff Berry said, and wound up seventh.
Abby’s Angel wires Indian Maid
The Indian Maid Handicap was rained off turf and onto dirt — and that was just fine for Abby’s Angel. Abby’s Angel was set to make her grass debut in the Indian Maid, but instead, she wound up the controlling speed from the rail in a field that scratched down to six horses. Abby’s Angel made a clear lead under Jon Court, backed up the pace, and easily won the $113,100 Indian Maid, beating pace-pressing Hungry Tigress by 6 1/2 lengths.
“She had the speed, she got the trip,” said Court, who rode Abby’s Angel for trainer Mike Stidham.
Abby’s Angel now has won 4 of 6 career starts. She began her career racing for Stonerside Stable, but now is the property of the Darley Stable.
Abby’s Angel was timed in 1:45.22 for 1 1/16 miles, and paid $4 to win. Final Refrain finished third.