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
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.
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.”