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Breeders' Cup 2017

Awesome Gem Upsets Rail Trip in Gold Cup

A thirteenth appearance in a Grade or Group 1 race turned out to be lucky for Awesome Gem as the 7-year-old upset heavily-favored Rail Trip to win the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup Saturday at Hollywood Park.

The 8-1 surprise in the day’s biggest race was one of many in the latter half of the card, so there is a two-day Pick Six carryover of $514,127 for Sunday. Post time Sunday is 1 p.m. and the Pick Six begins in the fourth race.

Given a ground saving journey by jockey David Flores in a race that featured a very slow pace, Awesome Gem came through with the first Grade 1 victory of his career, winning by a half-length as the 8-1 fourth choice. The field was reduced to six after Tap It Light was scratched Saturday morning.

A gelded son of Awesome Again out of the Pentelicus mare Piano, Awesome Gem, who had been 2-3 in four of his previous Grade I starts, completed the 1 ¼ miles over Cushion Track in 2:03.31.

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Craig Dollase, Awesome Gem’s win was his sixth in 36 lifetime starts. The $300,000 payday pushed him over $2 million. His bankroll stands at $2,274,682.

He is also the oldest winner of the Gold Cup since Native Diver scored the last of his three wins in the race as an 8-year-old in 1967.

The victory was the third in the Gold Cup for Flores, whose earlier wins in the track’s signature race had come aboard Marquetry (1991) and Siphon (1996). Awesome Gem paid $18, $4.40 and $2.40.

Seeking to become the third multiple winner of the race and the first horse to win the Mervyn LeRoy, Californian and Gold Cup in the same year since Eleven Stitches in 1981, Rail Trip, the 2-5 favorite, paid $2.20 and $2.10.

Richard’s Kid, who finished 2 ¾ lengths behind Rail Trip, returned $2.20 to show.

“He finished like he had in his last two works over this track,’’ said Dollase, who had been disqualified out of a Gold Cup victory in 2001 when Futural crossed the wire first, but was placed third by the stewards, making Aptitude the official winner.

“This horse can run over anything. Synthetic, grass, mud, you name it. He’s very versatile and a real pleasure to train. This means a lot. A lot of work. My help and everybody have been real supportive.

“The owners have been real patient and given this horse time when he has needed it. He’s like fine wine. He’s just getting better with age. He’s in his prime right now.’’

After anticipated pace presence Tres Borrachos broke last, Compari found himself on the lead and was able to get away with extremely soft fractions – 25.82 for the opening quarter, 50.95 for the half mile and 1:15.12 for six furlongs – but he still had little to offer in the stretch and wound up fifth as the 7-1 third choice.

Meanwhile, Rail Trip, who had never been off the lead in his impressive victories in the LeRoy and Californian, was wide throughout and found himself behind the stretch running Richard’s Kid with a quarter of a mile to run.

“Rough trip,’’ said Ron Ellis, trainer of the defending champion. “It just didn’t work out today. He was wide. I don’t know why. I don’t what it was. You would have to ask him (jockey Rafael Bejarano).’’

Looking for his first win in the race, Bejarano thought things changed for him after the opening turn.

“I was traveling well and was in good position on the first turn,’’ he said. “After the first turn, (Cigar Man) just pushed me out. I was trying to follow the speed, but they were going so slow. I didn’t want to rush him, so I waited for the half-mile.

“I don’t think he ran his race because he was so wide on the first turn and the second turn.’’

Flores had no such issues. He angled inside Compari in the final eighth of a mile and was able to guide Awesome Gem to his second victory in nine attempts at 10 furlongs.

“Everybody went at the half-mile and I tried not to lose my position and wait for that pocket to come at the end,’’ said Flores. “Mike Smith (on Compari) was about ready to shut off the hole, but he looked like he ran out of horse, so it was very nice of him to leave me that spot.

“When that hole opened up, I couldn’t look for any better spot than that. That was the most beautiful thing, when you have a horse that can accelerate like that at any time. He’s just been unlucky before, but today he did the job.’’



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Older Comments about Awesome Gem Upsets Rail Trip in Gold Cup ...

There is no doubt that Rail Trip was best in the Gold Cup. It turned into an odd event after Tres Borrachos blew the break. There was no separation and Rail Trip took the worst of it from a trip standpoint. Still, it was nice to see Awesome Gem get his grade one.
I certainly give David Flores a ton of credit for the tactics he used in this race. Diving Awesome Gem down to the rail to save ground, then getting Awesome Gem to respond well, and run on very stoutly through the stretch. But you can't overlook the fact that Rail Trip was 7lbs. heavier than Awesome Gem in the race. Coupled with the fact that Rail Trip was hung out about 4 wide the entire race. Still, coming off the last turn, it looked like Rail Trip was going to be off to the races. But Awesome Gem ran a gallant stretch run himself. Finally banking the first Grade 1 success of his career. After more than a few near misses over the years. But top to bottom, I still believe the weight differential and how wide of a trip Rail Trip got throughout the race was more of a deciding factor in the outcome than was how well Awesome Gem ran in the Hollywood Gold Cup. TJMO.

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