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Awesome Maria heads to the winner's circle after the 2011 Ogden Phipps Handicap
The $250,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) features some of the best older fillies and mares of the east coast going 1 1/16 miles around one turn at Belmont Park. Awesome Maria was sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the field of 5 that went to the gate, off two straight wins in the Rampart (G3) at Gulfstream and then the Shuvee Handicap (G2) at Belmont. In to challenge her included 5-1 second choice Payton d'Oro, second in the Allaire du Pont Distaff (G3) at Pimlico last out, and 11-2 third choice Life at Ten, last year's winner coming off a third place effort in the Allaire du Pont.
Jockey Eddie Castro sent Absinthe Minded to the lead down the backstretch and she set early fractions of 23.05 and 45.70 over the fast track while being pressed by Awesome Maria. On the turn, Awesome Maria took over the lead through 3/4 in 1:09.94, and quickly opened up a 3 length lead through 1 mile in 1:34.94. Payton d'Oro tried to close late but Awesome Maria cruised under the line 3 lengths in front in 1:41.40. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to 6-1 Super Espresso third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Awesome Maria Velazquez 3.30 2.40 2.10 6 Payton d'Oro Saez 4.10 2.90 1 Super Espresso Cohen 2.80 Winning Time: 1:41.40 $2 Exacta 3-6 13.40 $2 Trifecta 3-6-1 37.60Full results chart
Left: Awesome Maria in the post parade. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "I think she was impressive again. She's been pretty impressive every start this year, her hardest-fought one being the last one. She's been just very, very good. She didn't break well but she was able to recover and find a spot there pretty quickly. After that, she was in pretty good shape. The strategy, on paper we felt that Absinthe Minded and Awesome Maria would be laying one-two and Life At Ten would assume the garden spot. The way it broke, Cornelio (Velasquez) had to grab (Life At Ten) a little bit to get that spot, and in retrospect it would have been better to go on, but he tried to execute the original game plan. I felt like on paper it would set up the same way; it obviously changes the complexion of the race when the Breeders' Cup winner doesn't run. We'll stick to 1 1/8 mile races. We'll look at the Ruffian and look closely at the weights."
Right: Awesome Maria back at the barn. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "She didn't break as well as I would have liked to, but once I got her into gear she was going comfortably the whole way around, really, really nice. Even though we were going a quick pace, she was doing it easy. Coming to the 1/4 pole, I got after her and made her switch leads and down by the 3/16 pole, she got another gear."
Left: Second place finisher Payton d'Oro in the paddock before the race.
Right: Trainer Larry Jones holds Payton d'Oro back at the barn. Jones said, "I thought she ran well. It took three of Todd's to beat one of mine!" Jockey Gabriel Saez added, "She never gave up and tried hard to the end. Larry was happy with the way she ran."
2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic winner Unrivaled Belle was originally entered in the Ogden Phipps Handicap but she flipped in the paddock while being saddled before the race, breaking her withers. She was immediately scratched from the race and retired from racing.
Jockey Ryan Curatolo sent 8-1 Street Game to the lead soon after the start and he set fractions of 24.56, 48.92, and 1:12.87 over the yielding turf while being stalked by 7-1 Humble and Hungry early. Into the stretch, Street Game accelerated away from the pack, opening up a 5 length lead at the 1/8 pole, and finished up under wraps 7 1/4 lengths in front of late-running favorite Air Support in 1:36.38. It was another 1/2 length back to Humble and Hungry third.
Full results chart
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