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Awesome Maria Wins Phipps; Unrivaled Belle Retired

Awesome Maria top story.
Awesome Maria, who had finished second in her two prior Grade 1 starts, earned a breakthrough victory today at Belmont Park, delivering as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 1, $250,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap for fillies and mares.

 

Looking to extend her winning streak to four and pick up her sixth career stakes triumph, Awesome Maria broke a beat slowly but quickly recovered to contest the pace from between horses. She dispatched Absinthe Minded when the early leader began to backpedal with three furlongs left and drew away once put to a drive by John Velazquez en route to a three-length victory over Payton d’Oro.

 

“She didn’t break as well as I would have liked to, but once I got her into gear she was going comfortable the whole way around, really, really nice,” said Velazquez. “Even though we were going a quick pace, she was doing it easy. Coming to the quarter pole, I got after her and made her switch leads and down by the three-sixteenths pole, she got another gear.”

 

Off at 3-5, Awesome Maria paid $3.30 for a $2 win wager, completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.40, and earned $150,000 to lift her bankroll to $842,375.

 

“She’s been just very, very good,” said Pletcher of the 4-year-old E. Paul Robsham Stables homebred. “She didn’t break well but she was able to recover and find a spot there pretty quickly. After that, she was in pretty good shape.”

 

Unrivaled Belle, the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner and 2-1 morning-line second choice in the Phipps, was scratched in the paddock after flipping and breaking her withers.

 

“She didn’t come down with a big thud, it was more of a soft landing, but when she got up I knew immediately she had broken her withers,” said the 5-year-old’s trainer, Hall of Famer Bill Mott. “I’ve had horses come back and win stakes after they break their withers, but she’ll be retired and go on to be a broodmare.”

 

Awesome Maria, winner of the 2009 Grade 2 Matron at Belmont and a division of the 2010 Riskaverse on turf at Saratoga Race Course, is unbeaten in four starts in 2011, having also taken February’s Grade 3 Sabin and April’s Grade 3 Rampart, both at Gulfstream Park, and the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont on May 21. In her two previous Grade 1 efforts, she finished second in both the 2009 Frizette at Belmont and the 2010 Gazelle at Aqueduct Racetrack.

 

Overall, the daughter of Maria’s Mon is 7-3-1 from 12 starts. According to Pletcher, she could make her next start in the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap at Saratoga on July 31.

 

Pletcher’s other Phipps Handicap trainees, Super Espresso and defending race winner Life At Ten, finished third and fourth, respectively, with Absinthe Minded completing the order of finish.

 

“The strategy, on paper we felt that Absinthe Minded and Awesome Maria would be laying one-two and Life At Ten would assume the garden spot,” said Pletcher. “The way it broke, Cornelio [Velasquez] had to grab her [Life At Ten] a little bit to get that spot, and in retrospect it would have been better to go on, but he tried to execute the original game plan.”

 

 

 

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