Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
Due to a very light racing schedule the past two years, Awesome Feather is not one of the most talked about horses heading to the 2012 Breeders’ Cup. That might be a big mistake.
Looking for her second win at the World Championships, this time in the Ladies’ Classic, the still unbeaten daughter of Awesome of Course has been nothing short of dominant in her only two starts of 2012. Now, as the 2010 Champion Two-year-old Female prepares for her biggest test to date, it appears that the filly who swept to victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies two years ago, is in the shape of her life. It’s been a long and winding road for Awesome Feather, but a win against a loaded field two weeks from today would take her full circle from an unheralded Calder baby all the way to racing immortality.
It all began for Awesome Feather in South Florida during the spring of 2010. At the time owned by Jacks or Better Farm and trained by Stanley Gold, the Florida homebred made her debut on the initial day of May. Sent off at odds of nearly 7-1, the bay filly went right to the lead and romped to a 5 ¾ length victory over seven other juvenile fillies in a 4 ½ furlong maiden special weight at Calder. From there, Awesome Feather methodically outclassed her competition at the Miami oval, reeling off four consecutive victories with ever-building ease. Wins in the J J's Dream Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs, the Desert Vixen Stakes at 6 furlongs, the Susan's Girl Stakes at 7 furlongs, and finally the My Dear Girl Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, proved to her Florida based connections that she had the stuff to challenge the best two-year-old fillies in the nation.
On November 5, 2010, under the famed twin spires of Churchill Downs, Awesome Feather was sent off as a slight favorite at odds of 4-1 despite the huge step up in class she was making against eleven others in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Confidently ridden by the only jockey she’s ever known, Jeffrey Sanchez, Feather stalked the early pace of highly regarded R Heat Lightning, collared her in the stretch, and powered home to win be a decisive 2 ¼ lengths. Now undefeated in 6 starts, she was an overwhelming choice for the Eclipse Award.
Before she was rewarded with the year-end honor though, Feather rewarded her connections with a monetary windfall, as the filly from modest beginnings was sold to Frank Stronach's Adena Springs for the Fasig-Tipton November Sale’s top price of $2.3 million. Young, up-and-coming trainer, Chad Brown would now have the champion in his barn.
Things would not be smooth sailing for the new partnership, though, as a tendon problem surfaced that would keep the champion away from the races for a full eleven months. Making her much awaited return to the races last October, the first for her new connections, it was business as usual for the little filly with the big heart as she scored a facile triumph at Belmont Park in the 7 furlong Le Slew Stakes. Next came a return right back into Grade 1 racing with the Gazelle Handicap at Aqueduct over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Stretching out to nine furlongs for the first time, Awesome Feather was a little over eager first, but settled down nicely as she tracked the now well-known Love and Pride through a rather moderate pace. Taking the speedster on the far turn it would not take long before the champ took command, and from there she steadily drew away to win her second grade 1 by 5 ¼ lengths. 2011 may have been a largely lost year for Feather, but in the Gazelle she proved that she had not lost anything from the talent she had shown before the tendon injury. She also raised her lifetime mark to 8-for-8.
Things would begin the right way for as a four-year-old, as a start in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff in late January at Gulfstream Park was little more than a formality as Feather coasted home by an easy 5 ¾ lengths. It seemed the world was her oyster and 2012 was going to be a very big year. Of course the best laid plans are only plans, and when a reoccurrence of her tendon issue was detected, her connections backed right off.
Despite working lights out for what seemed to be months, Feather would not make her return to the races until four weeks ago in the Nasty Storm Stakes at Belmont. The wait was well worth it, as Awesome Feather ran much like a nasty storm to the tune of an 11 ¼ length spanking of anything in her way. The victory, completed in 1:33.47 for the flat mile once again proved that an extended layoff was not going to slow this dynamo down.
Now 10-for-10, Awesome Feather is on the brink of doing something truly special at Santa Anita, but of course, nothing worthwhile comes easy. Standing in her way will be the likes of fellow champion and Breeders’ Cup winner, Royal Delta, not to mention Questing, My Miss Aurelia, Love and Pride, Include Me Out, Grace Hall, and In Lingerie. Clearly the task is a large one.
Only two other fillies were able to win the Ladies’ Classic while still undefeated: Personal Ensign, who did it in her career finale back in 1988, and Zenyatta, in the first year of her amazing three-year Breeders’ Cup career, four years ago. I don’t think I need to say more about what kind of company Awesome Feather would be joining if she is good enough to get it done.