Awesome Maria, who had won her two previous starts
by a combined 12 ¾ lengths , defeated Absinthe Minded by a slim margin in a
thrilling rendition of the Grade 2, $150,000 Shuvee Handicap for fillies and
mares on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Off as the 2-5 favorite, Awesome Maria raced off the flank of Absinthe
Minded in second as the pacesetter carved out fractions of 23.64, 47.38, and
1:11.44. The two fillies were put to a drive as they turned for home, and
Awesome Maria gradually got her head in front of Absinthe Minded following a
“[Awesome Maria is] a game filly,” said winning jockey
Javier Castellano. “She responded very well, and I’m very
satisfied. It was a great performance. I could feel I had a lot of horse, and I
think she wanted to be competitive with the other horse.”
Awesome Maria, who entered today’s race off victories at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 3 Sabin on February 19
and Grade 3 Rampart on April 2, completed the Shuvee’s one-mile distance
in 1:35.19. The 4-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon returned $2.90 to her
backers in the Preakness day crowd of 9,088.
“It set up the way we expected on paper, but we didn’t
expect the dog fight that ensued,” said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to
winning trainer Todd Pletcher. “It was a great race, and she showed a lot
of grit. She’s a tough filly, and we have a lot of faith in her. The
other filly [Absinthe Minded], in fairness, ran a huge race.”
Awesome Maria, an E. Paul Robsham Stables homebred, is now 6-3-1 from
11 starts. Her Shuvee victory, worth $90,000, pushed her career earnings to $692,375.
City Princess was
promoted to third following the disqualification of Happy Week, who was placed fourth.
R Betty Graybull was fifth.