Champion Awesome Feather remained perfect in eight starts when she rolled past pacesetter Love and Pride at the head of the stretch and romped to victory in the $250,000 Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) at Aqueduct Nov. 26 (VIDEO).
Awesome Feather, sent off favored at 3-2 odds, was making her first appearance in a grade I race since she dominated the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) more than a year ago to garner an Eclipse Award.
Jeffrey Sanchez rode the Florida-bred bay daughter of Awesome Of Course to the easy victory. Sanchez has been aboard Awesome Feather in all of her races. Awesome Feather, sidelined by tendon issues since last year's Breeders' Cup, was making her second start of the year for trainer Chad Brown and owner Stronach Stables.
“I was a little nervous there, but she’s a pro," Brown said. "She’s got the heart of a champion. We just try to stay out of her way in the morning training her and just try to take care of her, day-to-day. She does the rest every day. It was a pretty special win.”
Winning by 5 1/4 lengths, Awesome Feather completed the 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-old fillies in 1:50.01 Draw It, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, ran on for second, nosing out Love and Pride, who was piloted by Cornelio Velasquez.
Eight contested the Gazelle. Savvy Supreme broke in stride to get the early lead before settling in behind Love and Pride, who clicked off fractions of :24.93, :48.97, and 1:12.41 while leading Awesome Feather and Savvy Supreme. Awesome Feather appeared to resist early restraint from Sanchez on the clubhouse turn and early on the backstretch before settling down. She tracked the leader to the final turn when she cruised up easily on the outside.
Awesome Feather took a narrow advantage in upper stretch and gradually got command at the furlong pole. She finished up strongly to draw away while kept to her task by Sanchez.
"She is little, but she is unbelievable," Sanchez said. "I didn’t go to the lead, I sat there, took back. At the half-mile pole, I knew I was going to win the race. I had a lot of confidence in her.”
Love and Pride held second until the final stride when the stalking Draw It pipped her at the wire. Daring Reality took fourth, followed by Miss Valentine, second choice R Gypsy Gold, Bryan's Jewel, and Savvy Supreme.
Trained last year by Stanley Gold for her breeder/owner Jacks Or Better Farm, Awesome Feather dominated Florida-bred competition as a 2-year-old, winning the three-race Florida Stallion series by a combined 17 lengths. She made her graded stakes debut in the Breeders' Cup.
Consigned to the 2010 Fasig-Tipton November sale by Hidden Brook on behalf of Jacks Or Better Farm owners Fred and Jane Brei, Awesome Feather was purchased by Frank Stronach for $2.3 million.
Out of the Gone West mare Precious Feather, she was taken out of training in January for several months with a tendon injury, returning to action with a two-length win in an overnight stakes over seven furlongs at Belmont Park Oct. 5.
“She trained so well in the morning, I’m not surprised (by the ease of her win)," Brown said. "She’s so sharp and strong in the morning; she’s a super talented horse.
"As long as she’s 100% healthy, we’ll probably see her in the Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream (Jan. 28). That’d be the plan, but we’re going to see how she is first; but if she’s OK, that’s where I’d go.”
Sanchez and Brown were recording their first wins in the Gazelle. Stronach Stables won the race in 1998 with Tap to Music.
The winning purse of $150,000 for the Gazelle extended Awesome Feather's career bankroll to $1,681,746.
One of three in the field carrying top weight of 117 pounds, Awesome Feather paid $5.10, $4, $3.40. Draw It, who has now run second in five consecutive races for trainer Tom Albertrani, returned $5.60 and $4.20 and rounded out a $37 exacta. Love and Pride, trained by Todd Pletcher for Green Hills Farm, paid $5.70.
Marion Ravenwood and Purple Cat scratched.