E. Paul Robsham Stables’ homebred Awesome Maria makes her 2012 Belmont Park debut May 28 as she guns for a repeat in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I). The Todd Pletcher-trained mare will tote 124 pounds in the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps and faces four talented fillies and mares including Godolphin Racing’s It's Tricky.
The $400,000 Ogden Phipps is one of three grade I races on a revamped Memorial Day card at Belmont, joining the traditional $750,000 Metropolitan Mile Handicap (gr. I) and the $300,000 Acorn Stakes (gr. I). The Sands Point Stakes (gr. IIT) for 3-year-old fillies is also on the card.
Unbeaten in six starts over the last two racing seasons, Awesome Maria currently ranks sixth on the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s weekly poll, the only filly or mare in the top 10.
Last year Awesome Maria rattled off back-to-back wins in the Sabin and Rampart stakes (both gr. III) at Gulfstream Park prior to tackling the one-mile Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont in mid-May. She later added the Ogden Phipps that was run June 18.
In July she was sidelined after suffering a condylar fracture of her left foreleg. Given time for recovery, Awesome Maria followed the similar run-up this winter in South Florida, taking the 1 1/16-mile Sabin Feb. 25 as the 4-5 faovrite and the March 31 Rampart at nine furlongs at 1-9.
Awesome Maria will be ridden by John Velazquez and concede from two to 10 pounds while making her sixth start at Belmont. She has a 3-1-0 slate at “Big Sandy" and tuned up for the Ogden Phipps May 21 with a bullet :59.23 move for five furlongs on a sloppy track.
The heavy favorite is by Maria’s Mon out of Discreetly Awesome, by Awesome Again . Discreetly Awesome, out of Alabama Stakes (gr. I) winner Pretty Discreet, is a half sister to grade I winners Discreet Cat and Discreetly Mine, and a half sister to the stakes-winning Pretty Wild.
New York-based It’s Tricky has made eight of her 11 career starts at New York Racing Association tracks, but only one at Belmont when she won last year’s TVG Acorn Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths.
The 4-year-old Mineshaft —Catboat, by Tale of the Cat filly is also flawless in a pair of starts this year, taking the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) in the slop at Aqueduct Racetrack March 3 at the Phipps distance and the seven-furlong Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct.
It's Tricky, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, tuned up for the Phipps with a :49.42 half-mile move at Belmont the same day Awesome Maria worked. That was preceded by a bullet :59.87 move on a fast surface at Belmont May 14.
It’s Tricky, bred in Kentucky by Stonerside Stable, will carry 122 and Eddie Castro.
An interesting shipper in the Phipps is William and Graydon Patterson’s Juanita, a 16-1 winner over Plum Pretty and St. Johns River May 4 at Churchill Downs in the La Troienne Stakes (gr. II). The daughter of Mineshaft was a crafty claim for $25,000 in March of 2011 and since then has won the Indiana Oaks (gr. II) and ran second to 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes. She gets five pounds from the top weight.
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Cash for Clunkers rides a three-race win streak into the Phipps, taking a pair of allowance/optional claiming races at Aqueduct and the $85,500 Heatherten Stakes at Belmont May 2. She is trained by Rick Violette.
Robert Zoellner’s homebred She’s All In was an 8 3/4-length winner of the Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne Race Course in her last start. The Oklahoma-bred daughter of Include was a game second to Tiz Miz Sue in the Azeri Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park in mid-March.
$400,000 Ogden Mills Phipps Handicap (gr. I), Race 8, 4:40 p.m. EDT, F&M 3-Year-Olds and Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP., Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Cash for Clunkers, Alan Garcia, 114, Rick Violette Jr.
2. Awesome Maria, John Velazquez, 124, Todd Pletcher
3. She’s All In, Luis Quinonez, 115, Donnie K. Von Hemel
4. It’s Tricky, Eddie Castro, 122, Kiaran McLaughlin
5. Juanita, Ramon Dominguez, 119, Mike Maker