Favored Awesome Gem, making his 50th career start, was awarded victory in the $100,000 Berkeley Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) when original winner Positive Response was disqualified at Golden Gate Fields May 28.
The 9-year-old trailed much of the way while saving ground behind a slow tempo but mounted a charge in the stretch between horses for Aaron Gryder to get up for second as the slight 3-1 choice in the field of eight.
Positive Response, ridden by Julien Couton, had a narrow lead in a closely contested stretch run but spurted clear of Hudson Landing in deep stretch to win by three-quarters of a length.
Stewards immediately lit the inquiry sign, however, and judged that Positive Response, drifting inward under right-handed urging, had interfered with the rallying Anthony's Cross , whose jockey, Kerwin John, was forced to take up sharply.
Positive Response, looking for his first win since taking the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park in March 2011, was demoted to fourth, with Awesome Gem, Hudson Landing, and Anthony's Cross all elevated one spot. Awesome Gem finished a half-length in front of Hudson Landing, with Anthony's Cross a neck behind Hudson Landing.
The final time for the 1 1/16-mile journey on the Tapeta main track was 1:45.82.
Awesome Gem, trained by Craig Dollase for West Point Thoroughbreds, rebounded from an eighth-place finish in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. III) at Betfair Hollywood Park May 5. Awesome Gem has won two of four starts in his career on the Golden Gate main track, with a second and a third.
The imposing chestnut gelding increased his earnings to $2,821,370, tops among active North American-based Thoroughbreds. The grade I winner's career mark stands at 11-15-5.
"It's just amazing, this horse," Dollase said afterward. "You can't measure his heart. At nine years old, he keeps trying. You've got to be lucky and good in this sport; sometimes you're both."
Positive Response was always in contention, pressing pacesetter Michael the Man through soft fractions of :25.23, :50.78, and 1:15.09 before taking over near mid-stretch from San Francisco Mile gr. IIT) winner Hudson Landing. With Anthony's Cross and Awesome Gem both closing, Positive Response drifted inward, leading to his disqualification even as he took command in the closing stages.
Awesome Gem was unhurried through the second turn while saving ground and rallied when angled out in the stretch.
The winner paid $8, $3.20, and $2.80. Second choice Hudson Landing, also off at 3-1 odds, returned $3.80 and $2.60. The favorites combined for a $26.60 exacta. Anthony's Cross paid $3.20.