Last year Awesome Feather closed out her undefeated juvenile season with a convincing win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, crossing the wire 2 ¼ lengths ahead of fellow Grade 1 winner R Heat Lightning. Two days after her Breeders’ Cup win; she was sold for $2.3 million to Adena Springs Farm. Sometime after her purchase, she was discovered to have a tendon injury. Luckily for the racing world, her new owners were very patient and gave her all the time she needed in order to fully recuperate and return to the track.
Eleven months after she exited the track a perfect 6 for 6, she returned to winning ways, posting a 2 length score in the Le Slew stakes. About a month and a half later, she then returned to Grade 1 company and decisively answered any lingering questions concerning her health or ability, running away from the Gazelle field to cross the wire 5 ¼ lengths clear of her nearest rival. Now the question is, just how good is Awesome Feather and just how great can she be?
As a two-year old, Awesome Feather began her career early in the year, running her debut race on May 1, 2010. As a result of such an early start, she ended the year with 6 starts in as many months. She proved her superiority after both a two month break and a three week turnaround. She was fit as a fiddle and dominated the competition at Calder. Though she did not face graded stakes company until the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, she was well up to the challenge, taking her winning ways to the nation’s largest stage. She proved then that she was not just a Calder freak but rather a force to reckoned with.
Awesome Feather’s biggest asset is her versatility. In her 8 career starts, she has raced at seven different distances and won at all of them. Those distances have ranged from 4 ½ furlongs to 1 1/8 mile. Her running style is also versatile. Though she prefers to stalk the pace from 2nd or 3rd, she has also won while setting the pace and while closing from mid-field. She is not a filly that has to have things her way. When racing conditions are not ideal, she simply adapts. In the J J’sdream Stakes, she bumped with Delightful Dawn at the break which caused her to race further off the pace than she typically likes. Not a problem. She still won. Awesome Maria has not shown that same versatility. Though she has won at distances ranging from 7 furlongs to 1 1/8 mile, she appears to prefer the 7-8 furlong range.
Thanks to her injury, Awesome Feather has not had the same opportunity as Awesome Maria, to really showcase what she is capable of. But what she has done is clearly indicative of what she can do. In her 8 career starts, she has won two Grade 1 races by a combined total of 7 ½ lengths. Her average winning margin is 4.1 lengths, but she has won by as much as 8 ¼ lengths. She has not always faced top tier competition, but she when she has, she has knocked them off easily. Defeated rivals include R Heat Lightning and A Z Warrior, Grade1 winners; Joyful Victory, a Grade 2 winner; Savvy Supreme, a Grade 3 winner; and Draw It, Love and Pride, Daring Reality, R Gypsy Gold, Theyskens’ Theory, Delightful Mary, and Believe in A.P., all who are graded stakes placed. In terms of winning margin and rivals faced, the two fillies are about equally matched, but Awesome Maria has more graded victories since she has not faced a layoff due to injury.
Awesome Feather’s sire Awesome of Course is not well known, but her grandsire Awesome Again is the 12th leading sire in the nation this year. Awesome of Course’s third dam is champion racemare and producer Straight Deal, a descendent of champion La Troienne. Awesome Feather’s first three dams, Precious Feather, Last Feather, and Quill are all stakes winners. Quill was named champion 2-year old filly in 1958, won the Acorn and Mother Goose Stakes and ran second in the Coaching Club American Oaks at age 3, and produced multiple champions. Among Quill’s progeny is First Feather, dam of turf champion Run the Gauntlet. Also in Awesome Feather’s pedigree are Mr. Prospector, Affirmed, Northern Dancer, Raise A Native, Secretariat, and Princequillo. Clearly winning at the top level is in Awesome Feather’s blood.
So far, Awesome Feather only has two Grade 1 wins on her résumé, but I look for her to add many more Grade 1 wins to her credentials in the upcoming year. Her victories have been decisive, she’s versatile, and her pedigree indicates that top level competition should not be a problem. This year might have been all about Havre de Grace, but 2012 will be Awesome Feather’s year.
Wow, this is a tough one! Pardon the pun, but this is one awesome match-up. I have nothing but respect for both Awesome Feather and Awesome Maria, but in the question of which will have a better 2012, I am going to give a slight nod to the soon to be five-year-old, Awesome Maria. If they can stay healthy, they will be a big part of easily the strongest division in American racing. Can you imagine a few races where Havre de Grace, Royal Delta, and these two, all come in at their best?
OK, there is not too much I will say in opposition of Awesome Feather, I mean she is an undefeated champion and all, but I would like to point out the relative competition faced by each filly. While both fillies have been stabled primarily in New York and Florida, there seems to be a big difference in who they faced. Looking at Feather’s races, there is only race where she faced legitimate graded stakes competition, and that one, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, was obviously restricted for two-year-olds. Meanwhile, Maria has been facing tough competition her whole career. She is battle tested against stars like Havre de Grace, Blind Luck, Devil May Care, and Unrivaled Belle.
Yes the BC win was big, but she really hasn’t proven her class since her long layoff. The Gazelle win looked good, but was against a very weak field. There can be no doubt which of the two Awesome fillies did more in 2011. Awesome Maria was absolutely dominant on the East Coast last year as a four-year-old. She ran away from the Gulfstream-loving Amen Hallelujah in the Sabin, took apart the defending BC champ, Unrivaled Belle in the Rampart, ran down loose speed in the Shuvee, and dominated the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps in her final start of last year.
I will give you versatility, and raise you one … Awesome Maria is a stakes winner on the grass. That’s right, after being one of the best juvenile fillies of 2009, and a graded stakes winner at the seven furlong distance, she returned from injury and an eleven month layoff to win against a very good field of stakes fillies at one mile on the Saratoga turf course. So impressive was that return win, that she was thrown in against the big girls in her second start in a year. While Awesome Feather did virtually the same thing in the Gazelle, but against the likes of Draw It and Love and Pride, Maria was taking on Havre de Grace and Blind Luck that quickly. It proved a little too much , too soon, but the experience was good for her and that manifested itself with four graded stakes wins in four starts last year.
Like I mentioned before, the only thing impressive about that list are the ones that she defeated in the Juvenile Fillies … and two-year-old racing will be far removed from what happens in 2012. Can she beat the best again two years later? Maybe, but I think she will have more questions to answer than will Maria. Keep in mind, Awesome Maria has also had to return from setbacks before, and judging from her form in 2011, I have no doubt that she can do it in style. There were many who thought last spring and summer that she was as good as any female in the nation. With Havre de Grace and Blind Luck around, that is clearly saying a lot, but as impressive as she was last year, it would be hard to argue against.
At this point in their career, I really don’t think breeding is of much consequence, as both horses have already established themselves as highly accomplished fillies. The one area in which I could see pedigree coming back into play would be if the two squared off at a classic ten-furlong distance. Of the two, I must admit, I prefer the breeding of Awesome Maria. She is the daughter of Maria’s Mon, who has sired two Kentucky Derby winners, and she shares Awesome Again with Feather as a grandsire. For her, the BC Classic winner is on the distaff side as her broodmare sire. She also gets a great deal of class from her second dam, the great broodmare, Pretty Discreet, who has produced Discreet Cat, and Discreetly Mine among others. Already proven at one-turn, and up to nine furlongs, Awesome Maria’s bloodlines suggest that she could handle 1 ¼ miles, if she ever needs to do so.
Awesome Feather has accomplished a good deal, she is undefeated, and clearly she has a big heart with a strong desire to win, but she is not proven as an older horse, and she was not even proven against strong competition as a three-year-old. So, in the argument of which Awesome filly will have a bigger 2012, I believe the safer bet is to go with Awesome Maria. She is proven against better competition. She is proven as an older horse, and she is working well for her return to the races. It should be all systems go for Maria in 2012. Let’s hope we get to see these two excellent fillies meet sooner than later.