Eight-year-old Awesome Gem registered his first win since last year's Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) when he edged past odds-on choice Game On Dude in the lane and posted a one-length victory in the $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) May 30 (VIDEO).
Ridden by Robby Albarado for owner West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Craig Dollase, the Awesome Again gelding upped his career earnings to $2,508,270 with his eighth victory in 43 lifetime starts. Awesome Gem, who earned $187,500 for the win, ran second in last year's Lone Star Park Handicap.
Runnymede Farm, Catesby Clay, and Peter Callahan bred Awesome Gem, who is out of Piano (by Pentelicus), in Kentucky.
Sent off at odds of 5-1 in a field of only five, Awesome Gem was forced to wait out a rider's claim of foul for interference from Martin Garcia, the jockey aboard Game On Dude, before stewards made the race official.
The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile test was 1:43.48 over a fast main track.
“He broke really well and put himself in the race,” said Albarado of Awesome Gem. “I was worried about him backing up a little bit but he was fine up the backside and content. When I called on him, he took it to them.”
Added Albarado, “I worked him in Kentucky but I got hurt, so I didn’t get to ride him there. This was the first time I’ve ridden him in a race.”
Lydia's Last Step showed the way over Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Game On Dude while clicking off pedestrian fractions of :24.51, :47.91, and 1:11.32. Game On Dude moved up on the outside on the final turn, but Awesome Gem, never far back in third, also kicked into gear to challenge three wide at the quarter pole for Albarado.
Awesome Gem gained a narrow advantage over Game On Dude in the stretch and inched away gradually, appearing to drift in a bit as they charged for the wire. Game On Dude switched to the outside and tried to re-rally in the final furlong, but Awesome Gem had his measure.
Flat Out, rallying from last on the far outside for Cliff Berry, was finishing best of all but ran out of room and settled for second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Game On Dude, who was third. Lydia's Last Step was fourth with Texas Mile (gr. I) winner Thiskyhasnolimit trailing.
Awesome Gem, who was coming off a fourth-place finish in the Alysheba Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs May 6, carried 118 pounds as the third choice. He paid $12.40, $4.60, and $2.80 and fronted a $75 exacta. Flat Out, making his first start of the year for trainer Charles Dickey, returned $9.40 and $3.40 in a good effort. Game On Dude, the 123-pound topweight for trainer Bob Baffert, was $2.10 to show in his second start since the Big 'Cap.
Earlier on the card, Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Dean's Kitten, ridden by Julien Leparoux, dictated the pace along the rail and held sway for a 1 1/2-length triumph in the $150,000 Dallas Turf Cup.
A son of Kitten's Joy out of Summer Theatre, by Ide, Dean's Kitten is trained by Michael Maker. The chestnut colt earned his first victory since taking last spring's Lane's End Stakes (gr. II), now the Spiral Stakes, on Polytrack at Turfway Park.
The 17-10 favorite in the field of seven, Dean's Kitten completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in a sharp 1:40.90 on firm going and paid $5.40 for the win. Expansion, ridden by Gerard Melancon, rallied for second after overcoming traffic problems at the quarter pole. He was 1 1/4 lengths in front of Unbridled's Heart and Albarado.