Sent off as the 1-10 favorite against five overmatched contenders, E. Paul Robsham Stables’ Awesome Maria was a comfortable winner of the $150,000 Rampart (gr. III) March 31 at Gulfstream Park (VIDEO).
It was the sixth consecutive win for the daughter of Maria’s Mon—all of them in graded stakes company—and her second straight Rampart victory. Last year, Awesome Maria won the 1 1/8-mile Rampart by eight lengths under John Velazquez. She hit the wire 2 1/4 lengths in front of a fast closing Beloveda this time.
Velazquez rode the 5-year-old mare once again for leading trainer Todd Pletcher. They covered the distance in 1:48.19 on the fast dirt.
Awesome Maria’s task was made much easier when the connections of undefeated star Awesome Feather decided to bypass the Rampart. And when she sat a perfect stalking trip behind pacesetter Canadian Mistress, there was little doubt about the outcome.
With Elvis Trujillo aboard, Canadian Mistress set early fractions of :24.10, :47.61, and 1:10.52, while Awesome Maria stalked just to her outside in second. Rounding the far turn, the heavy favorite took over, putting away Canadian Mistress at the top of the lane while opening up a 2 1/2-length lead at the eighth pole.
Awesome Maria extended her advantage in the stretch and only a strong late run from Beloveda and Javier Castellano made the margin as close as it was at the end. Beloveda was three lengths clear of stablemate Canadian Mistress, both of them trained by Marty Wolfson.
The winner, who is out of the Awesome Again mare Discreetly Awesome, began her season Feb. 25 with an eight-length score in the Sabin (gr. III) at Gulfstream, a race that she also won in 2011. This victory improved her record to 9-3-1 from 14 starts and upped her earnings to $992,375.
“There is a little more pressure when you send one out like this," Pletcher said. "Anything less than a win is really unacceptable. She was giving them all six pounds and she ran another great race. We were concerned that she could come back from the injury (condylar fracture last summer) and regain her best form, but she obviously has.
"We’re going to plan her schedule a little different this year. After she won these two races we got her back to New York and ran her in the Shuvee and then the Ogden Phipps. We’ll probably skip the first one and look at the Ogden Phipps and have her fresh for the second half of the year."
Awesome Maria, who carried top weight of 123 pounds, paid $2.20, $2.10, and $2.10. The exacta (3-1) returned $6.40 and the trifecta (3-1-4) was worth $26.60.