The field for the 2011 Belmont Stakes is starting to take shape and it appears to be more competitive than the previous competitions. This year, we’ll see a showdown between Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winners, plus Nehro, second in the Derby and Mucho Macho Man, who was third in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness. Other Kentucky Derby contenders who are back for another shot at the classics include Master of Hounds, Santiva, Brilliant Speed (fifth, sixth and seventh in the Derby), and Stay Thirsty (12th in Derby). Isn’t He Perfect, ninth in the Preakness, may also point to the race.
New faces in the Belmont Stakes include Awesome Patriot, the Alydar Stakes winner; Peter Pan Stakes contestants Prime Cut (3rd) and Monzon, (6th); Ruler On Ice, second in the Frederico Tesio at Pimlico and Harlan’s Hello, an optional claimer winner at Belmont.
Of the newcomers, Awesome Patriot appears to have the most upside. Awesome Patriot (Awesome Again – Tizamazing, by Cee’s Tizzy) won his debut last October traveling 6 ½ furlongs over Hollywood’s Cushion Track. Shortening up in his next start, Awesome Patriot didn’t show much in the Jack Goodman Stakes and was a one paced third in his following start, the Hollywood Prevue. In his last start of the year, Awesome Patriot beat stakes winner Riveting Reason by a half length in a one mile allowance contest. Given time off until this March, the Bob Baffert trainee needed his first start of the season and was a tiring sixth in the San Felipe Stakes. In his latest contest, the 1 1/8 mile Alydar Stakes, Awesome Patriot set the pace and held on to win by 1 ½ a lengths. Awesome Patriot has been victorious in three of six starts and placed third once.
Awesome Patriot’s pedigree indicates that he’s a late-maturing colt and will improve as a three year old. His sire Awesome Again was a strong route runner, excelling at 1 1/8 to 1 ¼ miles. His victories include wins in the Jim Dandy and the prestigious Queen’s Plate Stakes as a three year old. At four, he was victorious in the Saratoga Breeders’ Cup Handicap, Hawthorne Gold Cup, plus Whitney and Stephen Foster Handicaps, which he won on his way to scoring an upset over Silver Charm in the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic. At stud, Awesome Again produces two turn runners and his best progeny include Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, Champion Older Female Ginger Punch, and Breeders’ Cup winners Round Pond and Wilco.
Awesome Patriot’s damsire Cee’s Tizzy won three of six attempts and was third in the 1990 Super Derby. The pretty gray horse has become a strong California sire and is best known as the sire of two-time Breeders’ Cup Champ Tiznow, but has also sired Champion Older Mare Gourmet Girl and the top sprinter Cost of Freedom. His daughter’s haven’t produced many stakes winners, but they’ve given us Grade 3 winners Tiz West and Got The Last Laugh, plus listed stakes winners Tizakitty and Drought Breaker.
Speaking of Tiznow, Awesome Patriot’s dam Tizamazing sold for $1 million dollars at the 2004 Keeneland September Yearling sales. The unraced mare is a full sister to the major sire, plus multiple graded stakes winner Budroyale and restricted stakes winner Tizbud. She’s also a full sister to Sorrento Stakes winner Tizdubai. Her first foal, Awesome Patriot’s half brother What Now (by Distorted Humor has made eight starts , with a 1-2-1 record in the claiming ranks.
Awesome Patriot’s second damsire Seattle Song raced in France, Ireland and the US. He captured the Prix De La Salamandre (FR. G1) at about seven furlongs and the Washington DC International Invitational (G-1) at 1 ½ miles, both wins over the turf. Seattle Song’s daughters have produced Ogden Phipps Handicap (G-1) champ Seattle Smooth Grade 3 winner Miss Birdstone, as well as the Brazilian and Puerto Rico Group 1 winners Fort Bird and La Veronica.
Awesome Patriot has a forwardly placed running style, which will benefit him in his quest for the Belmont Stakes carnations. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of the Belmont Stakes winners in the last twenty years have won either on or pressing the pace. While the colt still has to prove that he can compete at the top levels of racing, Awesome Patriot is the best of the new comers to the Triple Crown and could be a decent longshot play.