Awesome Feather Sparkles in Comeback
She's a perfect 10.
Stronach Stables' undefeated Awesome Feather put on a dazzling display of talent Sept. 20 at Belmont Park, returning from an eight-month layoff in the $85,000 Nasty Storm Stakes and taking a 10th straight trip to the winner's circle (VIDEO).
The 2010 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) heroine has battled tendon issues that resulted in a light racing schedule over the past two years, but was in top form when cruising one mile in a sparkling 1:33.47 by 11 1/4 lengths over four lesser fillies and mares.
Sent off as the 1-5 favorite in the Nasty Storm, the Florida-bred daughter of Awesome of Course was making her first start for trainer Chad Brown since winning the Jan. 28 Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The overnight stakes was a perfect setup for a bid at the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park, Brown said.
"Coming into this race, we felt at the barn that she was carrying more weight and her coat was better than we've ever seen it," Brown remarked. "Her other three wins, she was nice and sound, but we never had her looking weight-wise and coat-wise the way we wanted. This race, coming in, was the best she ever looked to me. We're just fortunate the race went here, that they had a race for us at Belmont, and it should be a good steppingstone to the Ladies' Classic if she comes out of the race in good shape."
Awesome Feather was away alertly at the start and settled into easy racing stride in third on the outside as Daddy's Honor showed the way through a quarter in :22.63 and a half in :44.96. The consummate professional, she ranged up to take control through three-quarters in 1:08.60, and struck the front well within herself.
"On the backside, before I saw the fractions go up, I thought the two horses in front were moving easily," Brown said. "My filly wasn't pulling like she normally does, which we're happy with; we've gotten her to relax in the morning. But then in a race, you'd love to see her dying to get by the horses. I thought in the first part of the race she wasn't in a hurry to go by them. I might have paused for concern there momentarily, but at the quarter pole, when she made the move, I was focusing on the competition and it looked like they were going backwards, so I was comfortable she'd at least win."
Awesome Feather's course from the head of the lane to the finish was straight and true. She increased her margin with every stride under jockey Jeffrey Sanchez, who flashed the whip briefly on the right side midstretch, but switched to a mild hand ride in the final yards and blew a jubilant kiss skyward after crossing the wire.
"She came in ready," said Sanchez, who has ridden the filly to all 10 victories. "I trust Chad Brown. I know he trained the filly very fit. She was better and relaxed today than she was in the Sunshine Millions Distaff. When I pushed her, she went much better than last time. Every time she runs, she surprises me."
Awesome Feather returned $2.40, $2.10, and $2.10 while All Due Respect paid $2.70 and $2.40 and Daddy's Honor brought $3.80. Kid Kate and Believe in A. P. completed the order of finish. Tiz the Argument, Acing Happy, Withgreatpleasure, and Cash for Clunkers scratched.
Bred by Jacks or Better Farm out of the Gone West mare Precious Feather, Awesome Feather counts the 2011 Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) and Le Slew Stakes among her wins for Stronach, who bought her for $2.3 million at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall mixed sale after her Breeders' Cup win. She also won a quartet of Calder stakes in early 2010 for Jacks or Better when conditioned by Stanley Gold. The Nasty Storm score improved her earnings to $1,912,746.
"Too often these horses are retired early, and it's unfortunate, but here's a filly that they persevered with and kept her in the game," Brown remarked. "She's a fan favorite and I commend them for keeping her in training. I'm very grateful for it. I don't think anyone was more confident than Mr. Stronach.
"Six weeks out from the Breeders' Cup, I think she needed a race, so I'm not at all upset about winning by that many and having a strong final time," the trainer concluded. "I think she needed the race and we got the race we needed. Let's keep our fingers crossed that this great filly comes out in good shape and everyone gets to see the showdown they want to see at Santa Anita."
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