Susan Roy and Vinery Stables’ Awesome Act turned in an impressive performance in his first start on dirt, easily accelerating past his rivals at the top of the stretch en route to a 1 1/4-length victory in the $250,000 Gotham Stakes (VIDEO) March 6.
Shipping from England for trainer Jeremy Noseda for his 3-year-old debut, Awesome Act threw himself into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) mix with an eye-catching win on Aqueduct’s inner track. The son of Awesome Again was starting for the first time since finishing a fast-closing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) last November at Santa Anita Park. He will now be pointed toward the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) on April 3.
With Julien Leparoux aboard, Awesome Act was in no hurry in the early going, sitting near the back while D. Wayne Lukas' Oaklawn shipper Wow Wow Wow took the field of 10 through splits of :22.85 and :46.60. Peppi Knows was also up close for a bit, but it was Three Day Rush and Nacho Friend that sat in the next group and came up to challenge the leader rounding the turn.
Awesome Act also began to close in on Wow Wow Wow from a four-wide position, and when they turned for home it was the four of them across the track. With a shake of reins, Leparoux asked Awesome Act for more approaching the eighth-pole, and he responded willingly, pulling clear at the top of the stretch. Yawanna Twist closed well in his stakes debut but it was not enough to threaten Awesome Act, who hit the wire in 1:43.85 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast track.
Yawanna Twist was second under Edgar Prado, 1 3/4-lengths in front of Nacho Friend. Turf Melody was fourth.
“He just did everything perfect," Leparoux said. "He broke well and appeared to get a good position around the first turn, relaxed on the backside, and he was good. He was beyond good on the dirt; it didn’t matter to him at all. He just did everything on his own, he put me in the right spots, and then he just finished very nice. I think more distance will be good.”
Bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings and out of the Mr. Prospector mare Houdini’s Holiday, Awesome Act was a $240,000 Keeneland September 2008 yearling sale purchase. He made four of his first five starts on the turf in England, with a maiden win to show for his efforts. Sent off at 31-1 in the BC Juvenile Turf in his U.S. debut, the chestnut colt made a strong, wide rally to miss by just 1 1/2 lengths under Ryan Moore.
Noseda, who trains his charge on the Newmarket Polytrack, wanted to send Awesome Act to New York about 10 days before the Gotham to get a work on the track, but because of weather delays was unable to ship him until March 2. He cleared quarantine just three days prior to the race.
“I believed in this horse today," Noseda said. "It was a good, solid race, but there were no graded stakes winners. It’s the first hurdle out of the way, so the dream lives on. We’ll be back for the Wood Memorial. He’ll stay at Belmont Park, in Steve Asmussen’s barn with my team, and get ready for the Wood.
“We had the discussion about him possibly being a Derby horse after the Breeders’ Cup. I stood up and said, ‘I believe I can do it from Europe.’ Now he has been in America, and we can move forward. I will be going back to Newmarket, maybe I’ll come in for a day and watch him train.”
Improving to 2-2-1 from seven starts, Awesome Act upped his earnings to $221.691.
Sent off as the favorite, Awesome Act paid $7.70, $5.10, and $3.80. The exacta (4-2) returned $39.60 and the treifecta (4-2-3) was $220.
Shrimp Dancer was fifth, followed by Peppi Knows, I've Got the Fever, Wow Wow Wow, Three Day Rush, and Afleet Again.
Earlier on the card in the $100,000 Toboggan (gr. III) (VIDEO), a six-furlong event for 3-year-olds and up, Stetson Stables’ Wall Street Wonder held off stubborn Custom for Carlos after a lengthy stretch duel to win by a neck under Channing Hill.
Wall Street Wonder, a 4-year-old son of City Place, and Custom for Carlos, a 4-year-old More Than Ready colt, were in a two-horse race the entire way, as they set the pace down the backstretch, moved through the turn together, and hit the top of the stretch in tandem. Wall Street Wonder enjoyed a narrow lead for most of the stretch, but Custom for Carlos fought back gamely along the rail under Julien Leparoux and briefly stuck a nose in front inside the sixteenth-pole. However, Wall Street Wonder found more and regained the advantage in the final yards.
The final time on the fast inner track was 1:09.88. Custom for Carlos was five lengths ahead of third-place finisher Driven by Success.
It was the fourth win in 13 lifetime starts for Wall Street Wonder, who increased his earnings to $216,341 while gaining his first graded-stakes score. He has won three consecutive races, all at Aqueduct. Bred in Florida by Richard Wilson, the dark bay/brown colt is out of the Kissin Kris mare Kisses and Hugs.
“He’d been training super,” said Tonja Terranova, assistant to trainer John Terranova. “He showed no ill-effects from running so fast last time. Once he breezed last week and went tremendously, we knew that we’d run him.
“Custom for Carlos is a very nice horse and he has been battle-tested. This was a very big effort on our horse’s part, and we’re really proud of him. The Carter (Handicap, gr. I, April 3) is the goal now.”
Sent off as the slight favorite in a field of five, Wall Street Wonder paid $4.70, $2.60, and $2.10.