Awesome Strong Seeking Clean Sweep in $400,000 In Reality
Undefeated Colt Favored in Saturday’s Florida Sire Stakes Finale
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – CSLR Racing Partners’ Awesome Strong will have the opportunity to become the 10th horse to sweep the colts and geldings division of the FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes series in Saturday’s $400,000 In Reality at Gulfstream Park.
The In Reality, the 1 1/16-mile finale of the 2022 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes series for juveniles sired by accredited Florida stallions, will co-headline Saturday’s program with the $400,000 My Dear Girl, the 1 1/16-mile FFS series for fillies in which Arindel’s Lynx will also seek a sweep of her division.
The colts and geldings and filly divisions have not been swept in the same year since the series’ inception in 1982.
First race post Saturday for the 11-race program is 12:25 p.m.
Awesome Strong is undefeated in three career starts, which include dominating victories in the $100,000 Dr. Fager and the $200,000 Affirmed that have given him a chance to sweep the FFS colts and geldings series.
“I’m excited and happy and grateful to be here and to have a chance to win the series,” trainer Jorge Delgado said. “This is a blessing. There is no pressure.”
Awesome Strong has been installed as the 7-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 12 colts and geldings. The son of Awesome Slew made a spectacular debut May 6 when he overcame early traffic and drew off to win a 4 ½-furlong maiden race by six lengths. The Florida-bred colt had tipped Delgado of his immense potential while training for his debut with jockey Miguel Vasquez aboard.
“It was seven days before his first race. He breezed [a half-mile] in 47 [seconds] in company and he opened up maybe eight lengths on very good competition. The plan was to go nose to nose, but Miguel couldn’t keep the horse there any longer and the horse went out there on his own. He went 47 and galloped out [five furlongs] in 59,” Delgado recalled. “I was a little concerned that afternoon about the horse coming back OK and if the horse was muscle-sore because the breeze was such a strong breeze for a 2-year-old. But he was perfect. That day I knew I had a good horse.”
The eye-catching debut caught the attention of CSLR Racing Partners, who purchased Awesome Strong for $500,000 and made the decision to keep him in Delgado’s stable.
“The owners have shown all their support to me and the barn. They’ve supported every move we’ve made and every idea we’ve had. They’ve been very supportive. They have shown us their trust in our program,” Delgado said. “They’re high-quality people who are horse-loving.”
Awesome Strong rewarded his new owners with a victory in the Aug. 6 Dr. Fager, in which he led throughout the six-furlong distance to score by 4 ¾ lengths. He came right back to win the Sept. 2 Affirmed, the seven-furlong second leg of the FSS series in which he rated just off the early pace on the backstretch before drawing away by three lengths in the stretch.
The In Reality will be Awesome Strong’s first start around two turns.
“He’s been showing me all the signs I want to see. He’s been training slow gallops at long distances. I wanted to make him show me that he can definitely go the distance,” Delgado said. “He’s been maturing and I think he will relax more in the race. He’s definitely trained properly to go two turns.”
Awesome Strong will break from the No. 8 post position in the starting gate for his bid to become the first horse to sweep the colts and gelding division since Three Rules (2016)
“I try not to think too much about it. I was hoping for a post on the inside. I’m just hoping for a clean break,” Delgado said. “Once we get a clean break, we’re going to be fine.”
Delgado is confident that Awesome Strong has the physical and mental attributes to handle the challenge.
“He’s very athletic. He’s tall but he’s athletic. He carries himself very well,” Delgado said. “He’s a very smart mover. He jogs very smoothly and when he breezes, he’s very professional. He’s a big horse but an athletic horse.”
Vasquez has the return call aboard the Delgado trainee.
Smile was the first to sweep the colts and geldings division of the FSS series in 1984. Naked Greed (1991), Seacliff (1995), Sir Oscar (2003), Express Tour (2000), Big Drama (2008), Jackson Bend (2009), Fort Loudon (2011) and Three Rules (2016) have also swept the series.
Arindel’s Turbo, who finished second in both the Dr. Fager and the Affirmed, is rated second at 4-1 in the In Reality morning line. The Juan Alvarado-trained colt, who finished an even second in the Dr. Fager, closed from eighth with a six-wide rally to get the place, four-lengths clear of the third-pace finisher.
“He’s pretty fast. In the last leg, he got hung out really wide. He made a good run. He ran hard. Awesome Strong is a really nice horse for Jorge,” Arindel’s Brian Cohen said. “We’re going to try to catch him again.
Edwin Gonzalez has the return call on the homebred son of Brethren, who drew the No. 6 post position.
“I don’t think the two turns should be a problem. He’s got a good post and Edwin knows him. Edwin seems to think the further the better for him,” Cohen said. “Hopefully, he can catch him this time.”.
Arindel will also be represented in the In Reality by Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Knox, another son of Brethren who bypassed the Affirmed after finishing a late-closing fourth in the Dr. Fager. Knox had previously captured his debut at five furlongs after rallying from off the pace.
“He ran fourth in the Dr. Fager. He’s a horse that doesn’t have too much early speed. I didn’t see us making up in four weeks enough improvement to beat Awesome Strong,” Joseph said. “I thought it made more sense to give him a little freshening and go straight to the mile-and-a-sixteenth. That would give him his best chance to compete.”
Joseph is also scheduled to saddle Magic Cap Stables’ Apocalypso, who recovered from bumping at the start of the Affirmed to rally from 11th to finish third. The son of Girvin graduated at first asking at Gulfstream Aug. 6, scoring by a neck in a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight race.
“First time he showed some resiliency to battle back and win. Last time, he didn’t break the best and got bumped at the start and he ended up so far behind. Getting up to finish third, I though was very creditable,” Joseph said. “Hopefully, he’ll break well and put himself in a closer spot. I think he has a chance.”
Leonel Reyes has the call on Knox, while Edgard Zayas the return mount aboard Apocalypso, who is rated third in the morning line at 6-1.
Sandra New, Aaron Haberman and Tai Granada’s Hard to Handle, who finished third behind Apocalypso in his debut, enters the In Reality off an impressive 5 ½-length victory in a seven-furlong maiden special weight races for Florida-breds.
Paco Lopez is scheduled to ride David Fawkes-trained Hard to Handle for the first time in the In Reality.
Smith Ranch Stables’ Fifty One Fifty, who finished second behind Apocalypso in his debut, will be equipped with blinkers for the first time In Reality after finishing second behind Hard to Handle last time out.
Jose Morelos has the return mount aboard the gelded son of Khozan.
William Churly and Shadowbrook Farm Inc.’s Cajun Hope, third in the Dr. Fager and fifth in the Affirmed; Champion Equine LLC’s Commandant, sixth in the Dr. Fager and fourth in the Affirmed; Donald Mensh’s Rockin Roller, who overcame a slow start to win his debut in a Sept. 9 $50,000 maiden claiming race; trainer Roger Laurin’s Tigre, who finished third in last Saturday’s Armed Forces; Jacks or Better Farm Inc.’s Belts and Brooks, a full brother to 2018 Affirmed winner and In Reality runner-up Garter and Tie; and Diamond 100 Racing Club LLC and Amy Dunne’s Diamond Cool, who is coming off a third-place finish in his debut behind Turbo; round out the field