By Ed Gray Photo Credit: Coglianese Photos
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Awesome Maria was such an enormous standout in Saturday’s $150,000 Rampart (G3) at Gulfstream Park that the striking gray mare was sent to the starting gate at odds of 1-10.
The daughter of Maria’s Mon lived up to the bettors’ expectations with a thoroughly dominating 2 ¼-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile stakes for fillies and mares on the Florida Derby Day program. But the anticipated five-star performance wasn’t so easy on trainer Todd Pletcher.
“There is a little more pressure when you send one out like this,” said Pletcher, whose mare carried high weight of 123 pounds. “Anything less than a win is really unacceptable. She was giving them all six pounds and she ran another great race.”
Awesome Maria paid $2.20 for her fourth triumph in as many career starts at Gulfstream.
Joyce Robsham’s homebred mare got away from the gate in good order to gain stalking position behind pacesetter Canadian Mistress into the first turn. Jockey John Velazquez was content to run second along the backstretch behind the 19-1 pacesetter, before asking Awesome Maria for some run approaching the far turn. The 5-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon responded by quickly pulling alongside Canadian Mistress midway on the turn before taking the lead leaving the turn into the homestretch.
Awesome Maria was never threatened thereafter, powering away to collect her sixth consecutive graded-stakes victory.
“That was awesome,” Velazquez said. “Just to have her back this year alone and the way that she put her two races back-to-back is awesome to see.”
Beloveda, who had saved ground under Javier Castellano, closed to finish second, three lengths clear of Canadian Mistress, with whom she ran as an uncoupled entry trained by Martin Wolfson.
“Tough to go up against a horse like Awesome Maria. I rode her last year; I know how good she is. With that said, I was very satisfied with how my filly ran,” Castellano said. “We sat off in the beginning and then around the turn I was able to swing her out. Awesome Maria is just a beast and there was no beating her today.”
Awesome Maria ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.19, nearly a second faster than she ran while winning the 2011 Rampart by eight lengths.
“We were concerned that she could come back from the injury and regain her best form, but she obviously has,” said Pletcher, whose mare had surgery to repair a condylar fracture in her left front ankle last June and returned to action to capture the Sabin (G3) at Gulfstream on Feb. 25.
Awesome Maria earned $90,000 for her ninth victory in 14 career starts to boost her bankroll to $992,375. Although she duplicated her 2011 Gulfstream form by winning both the Sabin and Rampart this year, Pletcher won’t follow last year’s post-Gulfstream schedule.
“We’re going to plan her schedule a little different this year. After she won these two races we got her back to New York and ran her in the Shuvee (G2) and then the Ogden Phipps (G1),” Pletcher said. “We’ll probably skip the first one and look at the Ogden Phipps (at Belmont on May 28) and have her fresh for the second half of the year.”
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