Friday, September 21, 2012
Undefeated, yes; but is she Awesome?
By Bob Ehalt
Most Thoroughbred champions with a perfect 9-for-9 record can be found on a Saturday afternoon at one of the nation’s most well-known racetracks.
Spots like the first Saturday in May at the Kentucky Derby or the first Friday or Saturday in November at the Breeders’ Cup come to mind rather quickly as appropriate settings for a superstar.
All of which makes it all the more surprising that Awesome Feather, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2010, ran her record to a Bo Derek-like perfect 10-for-10 by winning the third race of the day this past Thursday afternoon at Belmont Park.
The third Thursday in September?
Awesome Feather romped in the Nasty Storm Stakes.
Sorry, it simply doesn’t have the same ring to it as those more noteworthy Saturday dates, which is in some ways fitting because Awesome Feather is not exactly the typical undefeated champion. Not a single vote was cast for her in the most recent national media poll. And as much as no one has ever gotten the best of her, those 10 victories include just two graded stakes: the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the 2011 Gazelle, both Grade 1 tests.
Only once has she faced the best horses of her generation, and while she was a 2 1/4-length winner in that effort (the BC Juvenile Fillies), it will be her next race -- not Thursday’s -- that will define her.
After the undefeated 4-year-old trounced four overmatched rivals by 11-plus lengths in the $85,000 Nasty Storm, trainer Chad Brown said the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic on Friday, Nov. 2 at Santa Anita would be the next stop for Awesome Feather. There she could beat the likes of Royal Delta, It’s Tricky, Questing and My Miss Aurelia in a victory that would add the proper emphasis and respect to that undefeated tag before her name.
“She’s been very strong in her gallops. Six weeks out from the Breeders’ Cup, I think she needed a race, so I’m not at all upset about winning by that many and having a strong final time. I think she needed the race and we got the race we needed,” Brown said. “Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this great filly comes out of the race in good shape and everyone gets to see the showdown they want to see at Santa Anita.”
From a historical standpoint, Awesome Feather has some catching up to do. The great Zenyatta, who won her first 19 starts before going down to defeat in her 20th and final start, had four Grade 1 and four Grade 2 victories numbered among her first 10 starts. Personal Ensign, who retired with a perfect 13-for-13 record, had five Grade 1 wins and two Grade 2 wins in that same 10-race span -- and victory No. 10 came in Saratoga’s famed Whitney Stakes against the boys.
Personal Ensign beat only two horses on a sloppy track in the Whitney, but suffice it to say, the runner-up that 1988 day at Saratoga, multiple-Grade 1 winner Gulch, was a considerably more formidable rival than All Due Respect, who was second in the Nasty Storm.
At the present moment, Awesome Feather is an exciting, extremely talented filly whose record bespeaks greatness while her accomplishments are noteworthy but not overwhelming.
Sorry, but Thursday afternoons in September are not a ticket to the Hall of Fame. It’s that Friday in November which will tell us exactly how awesome this filly can be.