Upsetter Awesome Gem unleashed a terrific stretch drive to snatch victory by a nose from Midnight Lute in the final strides of the $200,000 San Fernando (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park Saturday.
The Awesome Again gelding notched his first stakes victory in a quality field of 11 4-year-olds in the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando, which he completed in a good time of 1:41 4/5 with Tyler Baze in the irons.
Craig Dollase trains Awesome Gem for the West Point Thoroughbreds partnership and others. Awesome Gem had one prior stakes appearance, finishing a fast-closing second in the one-mile Sir Beaufort on the Santa Anita turf course in his last start Dec. 26.
Dollase said he chose the Sir Beaufort over the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes that day because he wanted Awesome Gem to race two turns.
"We’ve got three weeks till the next one, and if he’s good enough and stays sound, we’ll think about the Big ’Cap, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; one race at a time.”
Midnight Lute surged past favored Brother Derek on the outside in upper stretch, bumping with the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner as he took the lead and appeared to be a winner heading for the wire. But Awesome Gem, rallying from fifth in the middle of the track, would not be denied, getting to the line just in front of Midnight Lute, who was ridden by Victor Espinoza.
"I just had to get the right trip and not get in trouble," said Baze. "It was just point him in the right direction. When I switched sticks, he just took off. This is an awesome horse. He’s very talented."
Brother Derek, reunited with Alex Solis Saturday, was 1 1/4 lengths behind in third, while Arson Squad finished with interest to be fourth, a neck behind Brother Derek.
All four could return in the $300,000 Strub (gr. II), the final leg of the three-race series for 4-year-olds of 2007, at nine furlongs on Feb. 3.
Outsider Objective led the field through moderate early splits of :23 1/5 and :47 before being overwhelmed by Halo Steven, who led after six furlongs in 1:10 3/5, as well as Brother Derek and Midnight Lute on the extreme outside. Brother Derek, now winless in seven starts since last spring's Santa Anita Derby, led briefly and appeared to get the worst of it as Midnight Lute lugged in coming off the turn. Midnight Lute continued to weave in and out through the stretch.
Awesome Gem broke his maiden at Santa Anita in a 1 1/16-mile event Sept. 29, then bounced back with a one-mile win in a first-level allowance race one month later. The chestnut is undefeated in three starts over the Santa Anita main track. Overall, he has three wins and three seconds in only seven lifetime starts. He earned $120,000 and has banked $218,960.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the Pentelicus mare Piano. He sold for $150,000 at Barretts as a 2-year-old in March 2005. Runnymede Farm Inc., Catesby Clay, and Peter Callahan are the breeders.
Sent off at 9-1, Awesome Gem paid $20, $6.60, and $3.60. He topped a $74.20 exacta with Midnight Lute ($4.20, $2.60), the second choice who was coming off a third-place finish in the Malibu (gr. I), the first leg of the Strub series. Brother Derek, who bounced back from a career-worst seventh-place finish in the Malibu, was $2.60 to show.
Arson Squad was followed by Halo Steven, Spring At Last, Big Mistake, Objective, Sensational Score, Soul City Slew, and A.P. Xcellent.
Hello Sunday scratched.