Racing News

Filly proves 'Awesome' in Santa Ynez

  • Awesome Baby (Benoit Photos)

Kaleem Shah Inc.'s Awesome Baby dueled throughout the backstretch with Taste Like Candy in Saturday's Grade 2, $196,000 Santa Ynez before pulling away in the lane and then holding that rival's late surge to win by a half-length on the wire. The 5-1 third choice in the short four-filly field returned $12.60 to her backers for finishing 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's fast main track in 1:16 3/5.

Jockey Mike Smith had piloting duties aboard Awesome Baby as she set swift splits of :21 3/5, :44 2/5 and 1:09 3/5 after a bumpy start out of the gate. Taste Like Candy was just to the Bob Baffert-trained filly's inside after breaking from the rail and began to give way rounding the turn. As Awesome Baby continued motoring in the lane, Taste Like Candy angled to the outside and put in a final late rally but was forced to settle for second.

"The post position killed us today," asserted Taste Like Candy's rider, Rafael Bejarano. "I wish I could have an outside post. She broke really well but we got pressured right away by the three horse (Awesome Baby) and I could tell my horse was scared and couldn't run freely. I couldn't get outside so I had to wait. She started to move (once she got clear) but by that time it was already done."

Crushed Velvet, the 4-5 favorite, raced in third throughout and was 2 3/4 lengths behind on the wire while 20-1 longshot Uzziel was distanced by another 18 1/2 lengths in last.

"She's a very good filly. She did break a little bit slow, but I don't think it would have made a difference," said Martin Garcia, who had the call on Crushed Velvet. "It wasn't her day today. She's better than that. She really didn't run that much. She should be OK."

Awesome Baby showed signs of promise when taking her August 4 maiden debut at Del Mar by 4 3/4 lengths, but then never factored when seventh in the Del Mar Debutante and a well-beaten fifth in the Chandelier to close out her juvenile campaign.

"Off her first out, it looked like she would have run better her next two starts. Maybe she just bounced off that first race, or tailed off for some odd reason, I don't know," Smith said. "Today though, she ran dynamite. She broke really well, was well in hand until I needed to ask her and I just showed her the whip and she kept running. It was a great race out of her today."

Making her sophomore debut in this spot, Awesome Baby earned 10 points toward a possible start in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 2 while also improving her record to read 4-2-0-0, $170,250.

"I was a little disappointed in her (Chandelier effort). I thought she'd hold on," Baffert said. "I was getting a little bit discouraged with her because she just wasn't finishing. She'd been working well, but she was always working well before and she'd fall apart, but today, she got out there, and I could tell about the three-eighths pole this filly was running like she did her maiden race. Her maiden race at Del Mar was really impressive. That's why she was the favorite (11-10) in the (Del Mar) Debutante."

Baffert also trains Crushed Velvet, who broke her maiden bow last out by 5 1/4 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park.

"You have to realize (Crushed Velvet) ran really fast first time out. I went easy on her and sometimes they just run like that second time out," Baffert added. "But they were going pretty fast and she was like four or five lengths back and then she closed. She probably would have been better sitting back a little further, but she closed on a :21 and four, so she probably went in :21 and just got tired...I think she's a really good filly. Sometimes when they run that fast early it knocks them out a little bit, but she'll be fine.

\"Awesome Baby will stay one turn. I think the other filly (Crushed Velvet) is going to stretch out."

Bred in Kentucky by Nicholas and Debbie Sibilio, Awesome Baby was purchased for $220,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The dark bay miss is the first stakes winner out of the Running Stag mare Miss Attractive, who is a half-sister to stakes scorers Amiable Grace and Miss Tizzy. Awesome Baby's female family also includes 1991 Kentucky Derby-winning sire Strike the Gold as well as 1972 English champion two-year-old colt Noble Decree.