Southern California shipper Awesome Gem came from off the pace to run down Nite Light in deep stretch for a 1 1/4-length win in the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) at muddy Hawthorne Park Oct. 3.
Ridden by David Flores, West Point Thoroughbreds' 6-year-old son of Awesome Again posted just his sixth win in 30 lifetime starts for trainer Craig Dollase. But the consistently tough performer boosted his career earnings to $1,695,682 with the winning Gold Cup purse of $282,000. Awesome Gem was coming off a seventh-place finish in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar one month ago.
Awesome Gem saved ground while racing in the back half of the 11-horse field as Shadowbdancing set a solid pace (:24.17, :48.60, and 1:13.04) for the 1 1/4-mile race while maintaining a comfortable lead over Nite Light, Stonehouse and Jonesboro. Awesome Gem advanced on leaders up the backstretch, but was forced to go five wide rounding the final turn. He rallied in the lane under steady pressure from Flores, wresting the lead from Nite Light, who had taken over briefly approaching the eighth pole, and inched clear. The winning time was a slow 2:04.36.
Nite Light, ridden by Jon Court, settled for second, two lengths in front of the deep-closing Going Ballistic and Luis Quinonez. You and I Forever, the 5-2 favorite off his second-place effort in the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (gr. III) over a sloppy track at Monmouth Park Aug. 22, made a mild bid while very wide and finished fourth under Jesus Castanon. Jonesboro, along with Awesome Gem the only millionaires in the field, showed little in the homestretch and ran seventh.
The versatile Awesome Gem has won on turf, synthetic, and natural dirt racing surfaces and could return to the Breeders' Cup next month. He ran sixth in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). The chestnut gelding won a turf allowance in June prior to a sharp second-place effort in Del Mar's Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) July 25. He also ran a close second in the Longacres Mile (gr. III) at Emerald Downs prior to the Pacific Classic.
Out of Piano, by Pentelicus, Awesome Gem was bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm, Catesby Clay, and Peter Callahan.
One of several co-highweights at 116 pounds, Awesome Gem went off as the second choice and paid $8.40, $4.40, and $3.80. Edward P. Evans' Nite Light, romping winner of the Turfway Park Fall Championship (gr. III) as the favorite in his most recent start for trainer Todd Pletcher, returned $6.40 and $5.20 while completing a $64.80 exacta. Remington Park Governor's Cup winner Going Ballistic was $10.20 to show.
You and I Forever was followed by Lowther Street, Shadowbdancing, Jonesboro, Alcomo, Stonehouse, Eldaafer and Brothers Nicholas.
Two races later on the card, 11-10 choice Public Speaker ($4.20) overcame a wide trip under vigorous handling by jockey Junior Alvarado to post a 1 1/4-length win in the $100,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap, a race taken off the turf due to slick conditions and contested on a sloppy main track (VIDEO).
Pending a final decision by the American Graded Stakes Committee, the Carey will lose its grade III status this year as a result of the surface change.
Antrim County ran second, with Sebastian County third in a field reduced to five due to four scratches. The final time for the one mile, seventy-yard event was 1:42.16.
Dale Bennett trains the winning 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor for Peter J. Karahalios. R M F Thoroughbreds bred Public Speaker, a $300,000 Keeneland November sale in 2005, in Kentucky.