Awesome Maria proved an authoritative winner of Belmont Park's Matron (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) in her stakes debut Sept. 19 when odds-on choice Worstcasescenario was eased out of the race.
Ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, the fast-developing Awesome Maria powered past pacesetter Southern Truth approaching mid-stretch and drew off to a 2 3/4-length victory. The Kentucky homebred daughter of Maria's Mon completed the seven furlongs for 2-year-old fillies in 1:23.07.
Trained by Stanley Hough for E. Paul Robsham, Awesome Maria was coming off a flashy 8 1/4-length maiden win over a sloppy track Saratoga strip Aug. 21 in her second start. That seven-furlong triumph followed a second-place finish in the gray/roan filly's racing debut at 5 1/2 furlongs over a fast track at the Spa July 30.
“I think she’ll be better going longer," Hough said. "I thought there’d be more speed in the race than actually came out. She’s kind of got one pace to her, but fortunately, it’s a pretty good pace. She trained great; I really love the filly. She’s got a great mind."
Hough said he was looking forward to the one-mile Frizette (gr. I) at Belmont on Oct. 10 "if everything is right."
Awesome Maria pressed the pace of Southern Truth for a half-mile through quarter-mile fractions of :22.57 and :45.20 before challenging for the lead in upper stretch. Southern Truth fought back before Awesome Maria took command while drifting out slightly under left-handed urging near mid-stretch. She had things well under control in the final sixteenth as the stalking Touching Beauty, ridden by Edgar Prado held off the fast-closing Worship the Moon and Javier Castellano by a nose for the runner-up spot.
"She broke very well and stayed in good position close to the pace," Velasquez recounted. "At the three-quarter pole when I asked her, I had a lot of horse. I like the filly. She doesn’t stop, she’ll run all day.”
Worstcasescenario, winner of Saratoga's Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) in her last start, never appeared comfortable for Alan Garcia as the 9-10 choice. She dropped back after breaking on the lead from her far outside post, then gave way while racing wide and the turn and was eased.
“My filly just didn’t feel the same as last time, and she got tired,” Garcia said.
Awesome Maria, out of the Awesome Again mare Discreetly Awesome, boosted her earnings to $191,000 with the winning purse of $150,000. Sent off as the second choice in the field of nine, she paid $9.50, $5.60 and $4.10.
The 16-1 outsider Touching Beauty, who broke her maiden at first asking by two lengths at Saratoga in her last start Aug. 16 for trainer James Jerkens, returned $14.60 and $8.40. The exacta was worth $133.
Worship the Moon, sent off at 37-1, was flying late after being shuffled back at the half-mile pole. Trained by Mark Shuman, the fourth-place finisher last time in the Adirondack was $12.40 to show.
Completing the order: Southern Truth, Heavenly Landing, Dashing Debby, Speightful Lady, Worstcasescenario and Babai Baby.