HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - E. Paul Robsham’s 5-year-old homebred mare Awesome Maria, winner of five straight graded stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher going back to early last year, will be an odds-on favorite to make it six in a row with regular rider John Velazquez aboard in a field of six fillies and mare drawn for Saturday’s $100,000 Rampart Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park, a 1 1/8 miles race she won last year by eight lengths.
A roan/gray daughter of Maria’s Mon, Awesome Maria swept to consecutive victories in the Sabin Stakes (G3) and Rampart Stakes here early in the year and then added tallies in the Shuvee Handicap (G2) in May and Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park in mid-June before going to the sidelines for the second half of the campaign.
Awesome Maria was a leading contender for an Eclipse Award at the time, but suffered a condylar fracture at Saratoga training for a start in the Ruffian Invitational (G1) in July. She came back strong this winter with a repeat victory in the Sabin Stakes on Feb. 25, drawing off to score by eight lengths over 2011 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (G1) winner and Eclipse champion Royal Delta.
“Her first start back was encouraging. She certainly hasn’t lost a step,” said Pletcher. “We were really pleased with that effort. She was coming off a long layoff. She might even improve for the Rampart.”
Hall of Fame horseman Allen Jerkens sends out Howard Whitbread’s 5-year-old New York-bred mare Go Unbridled with jockey Julien Leparoux. The daughter of Unbridled Jet ran a big race last out to finish second by a length behind graded stakes-winner Dancinginherdsreams in a 1 1/16 miles allowance race on Feb. 19, her first start since a third-place effort in the Turnbackthealarm Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct in early November.
Ralph Durante and partners’ 6-year-old mare Lacie Slew will be a longshot with jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. named to ride for trainer Peter Walder. The daughter of Mineshaft finished third to the good mare Groupie Doll in a one-mile allowance race here on Dec. 22 and shipped to Laurel Park where she won the Maryland Racing Media Stakes for Maryland-bred going 1 1/8 miles on Feb.11.
Completing the field for the Rampart are Tonys Investments’ My Pal Chrisy, Luca Panici; ; and Farnswoth Stables’ uncoupled pair of Beloveda, Javier Castellano; and Canadian Mistress, Elvis Trujillo.
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