NEW YORK / BRITISH INVADER AWESOME ACT ROLLS IN GOTHAM – Mrs. Susan Roy and Vinery’s British import Awesome Act displayed a clear affinity for traditional dirt in his first start over the surface and placed himself in contention for a start in the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) with a stylish victory in Saturday’s Gotham Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct.
Trainer Jeremy Noseda traveled from his Newmarket yard to watch his favored 3-year-old son of Awesome Again tackle the leaders with a four-wide rally on the far turn and spurt clear in the stretch under Julien Leparoux to hold off runner-up Yawanna Twist by 1 ½-lengths.
The winner covered 1 1/16 miles over the fast inner track in 1:43.85.
“He handled the dirt today,” said Noseda. “It’s our first big hurdle out of the way, so the dream lives on.”
“He just did everything perfect,” said Leparoux, who earned a pair of Churchill Downs riding titles last year on his way to earning the Eclipse Award that honored America’s to jockey. “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.”
Awesome Act has a pedigree that suggests he would handle dirt – specifically the dirt course at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. His sire, Awesome Again, defeated 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm to win the 1998 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) beneath the famed Twin Spires and returned six months later to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) over the same track. In the latter race, Awesome Again defeated what many regard as the best field ever assembled in the U.S and included Silver Charm, European star Swain, ’98 Belmont Stakes (GI) winner Victory Gallop and reigning Horse of the Year Skip Away.
The Gotham winner will remain in New York to train toward the $750,000 Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct on April 3.
Prior to the Gotham, Awesome Act’s only victory had come in a maiden race on turf in Britain last fall. Saturday’s triumph improved his record to 2-2-1 in seven races and boosted his earnings to $221,691.
CALIFORNIA / ALPHIE’S BET, ANOTHER CALIFORNIA-BRED, TAKES SHAM – An authoritative victory in the Robert B. Lewis (GII) at Santa Anita put California-bred Caracortado on the short list of major contenders for the Kentucky Derby, and an upset win by Alphie’s Bet, another horse bred I the Golden State, in Saturday’s weather-delayed Sham (GIII) at Santa Anita both flattered Caracortado and put the winner’s name in the mix for the famed “Run for the Roses.”
Terese McWilliams and Peter Johnson Sr.’s homebred son of Tribal Rule rallied from fourth and drew clear in upper stretch under veteran jockey Alex Solis for to a 2 ¼-length win over the late-running favorite Setsuko. The Program was third and Outlaw Man finished fourth in the 1 1/8-mile test over Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface.
Alphie’s Bet failed to win in three starts at two for trainer Alexis Barba, but showed promise when he finished second to the unbeaten Caracortado in the California Breeders’ Championship on Dec. 26. He won a maiden race on the turf in his 2010 debut, his only outing before he returned to compete over the Pro-Ride surface in Saturday’s Sham.
“He had already run on this course in that Cal-bred stakes, so we already knew that he liked it,” said Barba. “He was a little bit closer than I thought he’d be. I was pleased to see it actually.”
The victory by Alphie’s Bet was the second straight stakes victory on the day by a 3-year-old trained by Barba. She saddled Ellen and Peter Johnson’s Make Music for Me to win the $60,000 Pasadena Stakes on the turf. It was the first career victory for the son of Bernstein, who had run well in Grade I stakes competition as a 2-year-old.
Alphie’s Bet covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.72.
FLORIDA / MAIDEN PADDY O’PRADO TAKES PALM BEACH – Donegal Racing’s Paddy O’Prado was winless in his young career before Saturday’s $150,000 Palm Beach (GIII) on the Gulfstream Park turf, but rolled to a 2 ½-length victory under jockey Jesus Castanon.
Trainer Dale Romans’ gray son of El Prado rallied from just off the pace to cover 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.40. Dean’s Kitten was second and Our Champion was third. Favored Bim Bam, winner of the Hallandale Beach Stakes, finished fifth.
DUBAI / FROZEN POWER WINS, TAHITIAN WARRIOR 10TH – Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown nominee Frozen Power made a successful switch from the synthetic Tapeta surface to turf in winning Friday’s one-mile Meydan Classic.
But it was a disappointing evening for Tahitian Warrior, a recent Godolphin purchase who finished 10th in the race. Tahitian Warrior had been purchased from owner Frank Calabrese following a strong maiden victory in January at Gulfstream Park.
Ahmed Ajtebi rode the winner for trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who said Frozen Power, runner-up in the UAE 2000 Guineas, will be considered for the March 27 UAE Derby.
ESKENDEEREYA FAVORED INDIVIDUAL IN KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE WAGER – Zayat Racing Stable’s Eskendereya emerged as the solid individual choice to win $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on Saturday, May 1 – but the “All Others” betting interest remained the overall fans’ choice as Pool 2 of Churchill Downs’ 2010 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) ended its three-run early Sunday evening.
The dominant winner of the Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park, one of trainer Todd Pletcher’s record six KDFW betting interests, was a strong 5-1 choice among Pool 2’s 23 individual horses. But the mutuel field – betting interest #24 that included all 3-year-olds other than the pool’s 23 individual horses – was the 3-1 overall choice when the pool closed Sunday evening at 6 p.m. (EST). Eskendereya closed at 22-1 in February’s KDFW Pool 1.