Jacks or Better Farm's homebred AWESOME FEATHER (Awesome of Course) had already asserted her dominance over the juvenile filly ranks at Calder, but on Friday the Stanley Gold trainee was ready to take on the rest of her division when lining up in the $1,818,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs. After a stretch-long duel with R Heat Lightning (Trippi), the bay lass inched away to pull out the 2 1/4-length victory and move her career mark to a perfect six-for-six.
"I'm speechless," Gold said. "I was confident that she was right and ready to run. Basically, I wanted to see if she could do this, and she didn't disappoint me. We hoped she could just keep climbing up the ladder, and she did.
"She's always been competitive and always seemed to get it done without getting to the bottom of the tank. The last time we went two turns, which was her first two-turn race, she hit another gear, but she still looked like she had more. She seemed like she still had a lot in the tank, so we thought 'Maybe, we have the real deal.'
"She's in the sale (Sunday's Fasig-Tipton November sale at Keeneland). I don't know if she'll be sold or they'll buy her back. We'll have to see."
Theyskens' Theory (Bernardini) and R Heat Lightning both shot to the lead when the gates opened while jockey Jeffrey Sanchez was happy to settle Awesome Feather just to the outside of that duo in third. The former lass was quickest through the opening quarter in :23 4/5, but R Heat Lightning suddenly gunned straight to the front through the half-mile in :48 and six furlongs in 1:13. Theyskens' Theory maintained her spot down on the inside of that rival, while Awesome Feather remained in her outside stalking position.
Theyskens' Theory began backing up as R Heat Lightning entered the turn, but Awesome Feather was just beginning her run. She quickly ranged up to the outside of R Heat Lightning through a mile in 1:38 2/5 and the battle was on, with both fillies giving everything they had. Awesome Feather slowly began pulling away, eventually crossing under the wire in a final time of 1:45 for 1 1/16 miles over the fast dirt to give both her trainer and jockey a win in their Breeders' Cup debut.
"I waited and waited with my filly. I wanted to make one move with her," Sanchez said. "When I asked her, she went. Then, when we got in the stretch with that other filly (R Heat Lightning) and when she bumped us, my filly tried harder. She came away from that other filly.
"I love this filly. The first time I rode her, I told everyone that this was a champion filly. Now she is a champion filly."
Sent off the 4-1 favorite, Awesome Feather paid $10.40, $5.40 and $4 while starting the $57.80 exacta. R Heat Lightning was game in defeat, easily best of the rest by 2 1/4 lengths over third-place runner Delightful Mary (Limehouse), and returned $6.20 and $4.20 as the 5-1 fifth choice. Delightful Mary gave back $7.60 as the 11-1 sixth pick. The trifecta was worth $616.60 trifecta and the 4-3-9-10 superfecta totaled $8,232.60.
"She ran a terrific race, she was very courageous," trainer Todd Pletcher praised his charge, R Heat Lightning.
"She just kept switching leads back and forth in the stretch," jockey John Velazquez said of the runner-up. "She never got to really relax the first part of the race. Even though she was on the lead, she didn't get into that nice relaxed rhythm."
Believe in A. P. (A.P. Indy) followed in fourth with Joyful Victory (Tapit), Theyskens' Theory, Tell a Kelly (Tapit), Harlan's Ruby (Harlan's Holiday), Izshelegal (Maria's Mon), Jordy Y (Congrats), Soundwave (Friends Lake) and A Z Warrior (Bernardini) rounding out the order under the wire. Indian Gracey (Indian Ocean) was scratched on Thursday with a sore foot.
Awesome Feather became just the third filly in the 29-year history of Calder's Florida Stallion S. series to score in all three races, taking the Desert Vixen by 4 3/4 lengths and Susan's Girl by four lengths before completing the sweep with a dominant 8 1/4-length score in the My Dear Girl on October 16. The filly began her career with a 5 3/4-length domination in a May 1 contest and immediately stepped up to stakes company when reappearing in the J J'sdream S. on July 10.
Following that half-length triumph, Gold began preparing his charge for the Florida Stallion S. series, which led straight to this championship event. Next up is a likely date on January 17, 2011, in Miami, Florida, for the Eclipse Awards.
The Florida-bred Awesome Feather is out of dual Grade 3-placed multiple stakes queen Precious Feather (Gone West), making her a half-sister to multiple stakes-placed Brooks 'n Down (Montbrook) and a full sister to a weanling colt. Precious Feather is herself a daughter of Group 3 heroine Last Feather (*Vaguely Noble), who ran third in the 1982 Oaks (Eng-G1) at Epsom, as well as a half-sibling to Group 3-placed multiple stakes winner Ruznama (Forty Niner) and Group 3 second Phar Feather (Lyphard).
Awesome Feather's third dam is Quill (*Princequillo), from whom is descended such Grade 1 stars as Zoonaqua (Silver Hawk), Gay Style (Sir Gaylord), Spit Curl (Northern Dancer), Prime (Maudlin), Dance Feather (Nijinsky II), Sumptious (Summing) and Caucasus (Nijinsky II). Most noted in this line are Run the Gantlet (Tom Rolfe), honored as champion turf horse of 1972; One for All (Northern Dancer), the 1971 champion grass horse of Canada; and 1995 French One Thousand Guineas (Fr-G1) queen Vettori (Machiavellian).