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Awesome Maria repeats in Sabin

SABIN STAKES | PURSE: $100,000 | GRADE 3 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | 1 1/16 MILES

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Awesome Maria successfully defended her title in Gulfstream Park's Grade 3 Sabin, and did it with style on Saturday, cruising to an impressive eight-length victory over Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta.

With regular rider John Velazquez aboard, Awesome Maria rallied from just off the pace to readily overtake the early leaders after six furlongs before drawing away to her fifth straight victory. Her streak began with a similarly dominant 4 3/4-length triumph in the 2011 Sabin. The outing was the first for Awesome Maria, a 5-year-old daughter of Maria's Mon, since she captured the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park on June 18.

Royal Delta, making her first start since the Breeders' Cup, rallied belatedly down the center of the track to overtake Groupie Doll by a head to finish second. Canadian Mistress and a distanced Ghostly Darkness completed the order of finish.

Awesome Maria ran a mile and one-sixteenth over a fast track in 1:42.82 seconds and paid $3.80.

"She came back with a big effort. I thought she ran very well considering the length of the layoff," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "You're always worried coming off a June layoff and carrying top weight. But she's top class and proved it again today."

Pletcher said if all goes well Awesome Maria would likely come back in the Grade 2 Rampart on March 31.

Trainer Bill Mott, who was using the Sabin as a prep for Royal Delta's next start to come against males in the $10 million Dubai World Classic on March 31, said he was not disappointed in his filly's performance.

"The result really wasn't a surprise," said Mott. "By the time she settled back there it was time for her to go. She's wasn't going to beat the winner today. It was the same race she ran in the Beldame when she finished second before winning the Breeders' Cup. I think the 10 furlongs [in the World Cup] is going to be to her benefit and we know she runs well over synthetic surfaces, which they have in Dubai. I'm definitely not disappointed because we're going to a whole different race next time."