E. Paul Robsham Stables’ Awesome Maria, who hadn’t raced since last June, destroyed four foes, including champion Royal Delta, to win the $98,000 Sabin Stakes (gr. III) by eight lengths at Gulfstream Park Feb. 25 (VIDEO).
It was the eighth victory in 13 starts for Awesome Maria, a 5-year-old Maria’s Mon mare who had been training like clockwork at Palm Meadows Training Center for Todd Pletcher. Awesome Maria, a Kentucky homebred, easily won the Sabin last year as well.
Awesome Maria, off at 9-10 odds, broke slowly in the 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares but rushed up entering the first turn to stalk front-running Canadian Mistress and Groupie Doll. Last year’s champion 3-year-old filly, Royal Delta, was content to rate in fourth through an opening quarter mile in :23.85.
Longshot Canadian Mistress held the lead through a half mile in :47.23, but was pressured by Groupie Doll on the far turn. Meanwhile, Awesome Maria was sent three-wide by jockey John Velazquez, coasted to the front under no urging, and pulled away after six furlongs in 1:11.10 en route to winning by open lengths in 1:42.82 on a fast track.
Royal Delta, who won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) and is being pointed to the $10 million Dubai World Cup (gr. I) March 31, was under a ride from Jose Lezcano on the far turn but did gradually gain ground to just get up for second by a head over Groupie Doll.
Velazquez called the effort by Awesome Maria “unbelievable,” and noted the mare had to overcome a slow start.
"I planned on sitting third, but I didn’t plan on it being a start like that," he said. "She broke slow but it worked perfect. She settled in down the backside and then I gave her her head and she took off. She was very impressive off the layoff today. Good to have her back.”
Awesome Maria, who is out of the Awesome Again mare Discreetly Awesome, paid $3.80 to win as the favorite over second choice Royal Delta. In her final start of 2011 before being injured, Awesome Maria dominated the field in the grade I Ogden Mills Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park June 18.
"She came back with a big effort," Pletcher said. "I thought she ran very well considering the length of the layoff. We were hoping to get a prep into her; turns out she didn’t need it. You’re always worried coming off a June layoff and carrying top weight. But she’s top class and proved it again today.
“If she comes out of this well, and it didn’t seem like is was too taxing an effort today, we’d hope to turn her back around in the Rampart (gr. II, March 31).”
The winning purse of $60,000 boosted Awesome Maria's overall earnings to $902,375.