ALLAIRE DUPON DISTAFF | PURSE: $100,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 1/16 MILES
Despite exchanging a hard bump with Love and Pride in midstretch, Natalie J. Baffert's Awesomemundo got her head in front of that rival on the wire to take Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes at Pimlico. The Bob Baffert trainee ran to her odds as the 7-5 favorite and paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.60 for completing 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt in 1:44 3/5.
"There was a lot more pressure on [jockey] Mike [Smith] with this filly because she's a house horse [owned by Baffert's wife, Jill]," the trainer remarked. "She wasn't in the picture and Jill said to me, "why is she way back there?' I said, 'that's the way she runs.' I told Mike, 'she runs like Zenyatta a little bit, but don't count on her to make up that much ground.'"
Awesomemundo was squeezed back at the start of the race and Smith settled his mount near the rear of the eight-horse field as Canadian Mistress duked it out with Love and Pride through splits of :23 1/5 and :47 2/5. Love and Pride put that rival away and appeared a clear winner for a moment in the lane, but Awesomemundo was just getting into stride.
As Love and Pride drifted out Awesomemundo was lugging in a bit, and the pair collided in the lane. That didn't stop either runner from dueling to the line, with Awesomemundo just getting her head in front.
"They came together a little bit because she was gawking around at the crowd, but it wasn't anything," Smith asserted. "We had a little trouble leaving, but she proved she's very talented. She has a beautiful long kick."
Love and Pride's jockey, John Velazquez, lodged an objection based on the bumping incident following the race, but the stewards disallowed it, making Awesomemundo's win official.
"It worked out perfect," Velazquez said. "She's supposed to be on the lead, and I was there on the outside. She put in a good fight. I got bumped a little bit late in the lane and got off-stride a little bit, but she fought hard."
"She fought hard," agreed Love and Pride's trainer, Todd Pletcher. "I thought she might have taken a little bump from the winner and knocked off stride. You hate to lose by a nose, but she ran well."
It was another 4 1/2 lengths behind Love and Pride to Catch a Thief, with Canadian Mistress, Check Point, Strike the Moon, Daring Reality and 3-1 second favorite Absinthe Minded completing the order of finish. Pinch Pie was withdrawn.
"This is the first time around two turns and stretching out," trainer Tom Hills said of Catch a Thief. "She's done one-turn miles and seven-eighths very well. We were extremely pleased with her effort today. Grade 3-placed will really help her in the broodmare barn next year."
Awesomemundo was making her stakes debut in the Allaire duPont and improved her scorecard to read 7-4-0-1. The dark bay daughter of Awesome Again took three tries to break her maiden, getting the job done at Hollywood Park last June, then sandwiched a third against optional claiming rivals at Del Mar between wins against that same type of company at Hollywood and Santa Anita. The Santa Anita win came in her four-year-old bow last out in mid-February, and she's now two-for-two on the year while boasting $172,120 in total career earnings.
Bred in Kentucky by Big Pine Thoroughbreds and Adena Springs, Awesomemundo brought $50,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She is out of the multiple stakes-winning Shuailaan mare One Fine Shweetie and counts as a half-sister stakes vixen Champagne Attitude.
Awesomemundo's second dam is Grade 3-placed stakes winner One Fine Lady, whose descendents include Grade 3 runner-up and stakes victress Salty Romance as well as Grade 3 diva Agave Kiss, who ran her mark to a perfect six-for-six on Friday when taking the Miss Preakness Stakes. This female line also includes Grade 1 winner Execution's Reason.