Awesome Gambler closed from sixth at the quarter pole to catch odds-on favorite Cobalt Blue in deep stretch, going on to post a 1 1/2-length victory under jockey Joe Talamo in Saturday’s $80,800 Alydar Stakes for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park.
Ridden confidently by Talamo as the apprentice jockey won his third race of the afternoon, the lightly-raced son of Coronado's Quest covered 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track in 1:50.25 while remaining undefeated in two 2007 starts.
“This is such a push-button and such a big horse,” Talamo said. “Not too many big horses like him have a big kick. Any time a hole opens up he goes through it, then he'll rate and wait for you to ask him again. He's a fun horse to ride."
Cobalt Blue, a late defection from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was in the clear by nearly three lengths in the stretch under a hand ride by Victor Espinoza, but was unable to match strides with the winner in the final eighth, settling for second, 5 1/4 lengths in front of Freesgood in the field of eight 3-year-olds.
Cobalt Blue, who won the San Felipe (gr. II) by two lengths earlier this year, was pressing quick fractions set by Leesider -- :23 4/5, :47 1/5 and 1:11 1/5 -- before getting the lead on the final turn.
"He got a little tired, but he ran a great race,” Espinoza said. “I waited as long as I could because he hadn't run in a while and I didn't want to burn up all his energy. He'll be ready next time."
Awesome Gambler, second in his only two starts as a 2-year-old, returned $9.20, $3.40, and $2.80 as the 7-2 second choice. Cobalt Blue paid $2.40 and $2.40, while the show payoff on 45-1 outsider Freesgood was $9.
"I hate to brag, but I expected him to run this good,” trainer Caesar Dominguez said of the winner. “This horse is unreal, by far the best 3-year-old I’ve ever had. Like his dad, he’s got a mind of his own, but he can run. We were considering the Belmont Stakes but ran out of time.”
Awesome Gambler, who broke his maiden at Hollywood April 28 in his 2007 debut, ran second to Horse Greely in his first career start last August at Del Mar, then was the runner-up in the Gateway to Glory Stakes at Fairplex Park.
“We stopped with him last year because of shins,” Dominguez said. “We pin-fired them and turned him out to the farm for 90 days. We will probably come back in the Affirmed or Cinema as a prep for the Swaps. Then we want to run in the Haskell.”
A $50,000 yearling purchase by Mr. and Mrs. Peter A. Walski of Chino Hills, Awesome Gambler banked $46,050 to increase his earnings to $86,950.