SUNSHINE MILLIONS DISTAFF | PURSE: $300,000 | STAKES | FILLIES AND MARES | 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | 1 1/8-MILES
Opponents hoping to catch Awesome Feather at the right time because she was coming off a two-month layoff and racing at a track she'd never seen before are heading back to the drawing board. The undefeated filly punished five foes in taking the $300,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff Stakes by 5 3/4 lengths Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park.
Odds-on choice Awesome Feather ran the nine furlongs on the main track in 1:49.17.
The 4-year-old daughter of Awesome of Course ran her career mark to a perfect nine-for-nine and increased her earnings to $1,861,746 with the $180,000 winner's share of the Distaff, which was restricted to Florida-breds. She is owned by Stronach Stables, which purchased her after her score in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She was named champion 2-year-old filly in North America that year.
Under Jeffrey Sanchez, who has ridden her in all her starts, Awesome Feather broke alertly in the Sunshine Millions Distaff and raced on the outside of early pacesetter Tiz the Argument, who went off as the second-choice in the race at 6-5. Tiz the Argument showed the field through the first quarter mile in :23.46 and went a half in :46.69.
Approaching the second turn, Awesome Feather strode to the lead and quickly repelled a bid by Delightful Mary, increasing her advantage to four lengths as the field hit mid-stretch. She drew off from there under urging.
"I just wanted to sit close to the other horse [Tiz the Argument].," Sanchez said. "We were going pretty fast, but she was doing it so easily. When I sent her, she just exploded like she always does. I have so much confidence in her. The way she ran today, the way she always runs, she's just so special to me. She's the best horse I've ever ridden. She's the best filly in the world."
Delightful Mary held second, with Sweet Repent finishing third another 1 1/4 lengths back. At 4-5, Awesome Feather paid $3.60 for the win and keyed a $2 exacta worth $16.60.
Bred in the Sunshine State by Jacks or Better Farm out of the Gone West mare Precious Feather, Awesome Feather is now conditioned by Chad Brown, who took over from Stanley Gold when Frank Stronach purchased her. Following her Breeders' Cup score, Awesome Feather missed 11 months with a tendon injury, and Brown brought her back last October to win a minor stakes at Belmont Park before saddling her to a daylight victory in the Gazelle last November at Aqueduct.
"She trained great for the race, but you just don't know until you run them," Brown said. "She's just a real pro. I was a little concerned when I saw the fast fractions, but Jeffrey (Sanchez) is part of the team and executed perfectly. She just hit another gear and it was over. I'm not sure we've ever seen every gear she's got. I thought we got a glimpse with her run in the Gazelle. We don't have anything in particular in mind for her. The biggest thing with her is to see how she comes back. We'll talk to the Stronachs and see where we go. With her it's one race at a time."
Awesome Feather won her first five races, all at Calder Racecourse, so it was a happy return home to Florida for her. Stronach stands Awesome Again , the sire of Awesome of Course at his Adena Springs in Lexington.
Elsewhere on the Florida Millions underdercard, It's Me Mom rode the speed-favoring main track to a front-running 6 3/4-length triumph in the $150,000 Filly and Mare Sprint. The daughter of Put It Back , ridden from the rail by Willie Martinuez, ran six furlongs in 1:08.65 to defeat six rivals.
Honey Chile nosed Indulgence for the place spot. Musical Romance, the Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter in 2011, was fourth. Pomeroys Pistol , the 19-10 favorite, finished fifth.
It's Me Mom ($6.80) races for her breeders, Jean and Thomas Bosch, and trainer Lynn Scace. Out of the Stormy Atlantic mare She Too, the 4-year-old chestnut filly earned $90,000 for her ninth win in 14 lifetime starts, lifting her career earnings to $425,200.
Paul Robsham Stables' homebred Soaring Stocks, ridden by John Velazquez, won the $150,000 Sprint by a half-length over Cajun Breeze. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Trippi overcame an early bump with Madman Diaries, rallying to get up in deep stretch while running six furlongs in 1:09.49.
Pacesetter Royal Currier finished a neck behind Cajun Breeze. Apriority, the 19-10 favorite in the field of eight, finished seventh.
Soaring Stocks ($11), a 4-year-old bay colt out of the Medieval Man mare Silk Stocks, upped his career earnings to $152,875 with his third win inf five races.
In the $150,000 Filly and Mare Turf, Hooh Why, at 17-1 odds, popped with the only big price of the Millions card for trainer Shirley Girten-Drake and owners Estate of Gail Gee, Mark Hoffman, and Earl Trostrud Jr.
Ridden by Velazquez, Hooh Why ($37.40) sat a good trip near mid-pack in the field of eight, swung four wide for the drive and swept past 3-2 pick Romacaca in deep stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Romacaca held second by a neck over pacesetter Speak Easy Gal.
Six-year-old Hooh Why, a daughter of Cloud Hopping out of Magic Merger, by Corporate Report, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.77. She boosted her earnings to $942,172 while picking up her ninth win in 36 races.
Course specialist Little Mike, ridden by Joe Bravo, outlasted Slews Answer by three-quarters of a length to capture the $150,000 Turf as the 8-5 choice in a field of eight.
The pacesetting Little Mike earned his fifth win in six tries on the Gulfstream lawn, running nine furlongs in 1:45.94. Slews Answer was a clear second over Bad Debt.
Little MIke ($5.20), a homebred 5-year-old son of Spanish Steps--Hay Jude (Wavering Monarch) owned by Priscilla Vaccarezza, improved his career mark to 9-2-0 in 15 races with earnings of $495,670. Dale Romans trains the bay gelding.