02/25/2011 4:25PM

Amazombie stands out in Santa Anita's Sensational Star

Benoit & Associates
Amazombie's success has even surprised his trainer, Bill Spawr.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The new, improved Amazombie that runs Sunday at Santa Anita is not the same Amazombie that sold cheap two years ago. Not even close.

The old version of Amazombie was a 2009 castoff. He was an un-raced California-bred maiden recovering from a tibia injury at a Riverside County farm. Amazombie was 75 miles southeast of Santa Anita and a long way from the winner’s circle.

Fast forward to 2011 and Amazombie is a chiseled machine, first over the wire in 7 of 15 with $308,708 in earnings. He works fast, oozes class, and when he runs Sunday in the $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap, no starter will look better than Amazombie.

That is getting ahead of the Amazombie story, one that trainer and majority owner Bill Spawr still finds hard to believe.

Spawr was not in a buying mood in early 2009 at Judd Morse’s layoff facility. Spawr was checking his layoff horses during a regular visit, unaware another owner with horses at the farm was trying to sell a pair of home-bred maidens sired by Northern Afleet.

“I love Northern Afleets; they all try,” Spawr said.

Morse suggested that Spawr take a look, even though funds were low.

“He said you should watch them go, and they went really nice,” Spawr said.

The manager asked Spawr to tender an offer. Smokenomore was more highly regarded. Spawr bid low.

“It was very fair,” Spawr said. “At the time, how do you know?”

He declined to reveal the offer, which surprisingly was accepted. It was time to ship from the farm. Spawr was told to prepare for arrival at his Santa Anita stable.

“They will be in tomorrow,” the manger told Spawr.

Whoa, hold on.

“There is no ‘they.’ I can’t afford two of them. All I have is” the agreed amount, Spawr said.

Spawr thought he was buying only Smokenomore. The manager said the price included both horses.

“Amazombie was the throw-in, he was the less-regarded of the two,” Spawr said, and he invited longtime friend Tom Sanford to buy into the economy package.

Smokenomore has won one race and $34,240 from 21 starts. Low budget.

Amazombie, a colt, won just one of his first six starts. He was going nowhere. His color was off, his muscles undefined.

“He was not running to his ability,” Spawr said. “In the paddock, he would get hot, he was tough to saddle, and he was using too much energy.”

Amazombie was castrated on Jan. 28, 2010.

“That’s when he started putting it all together,” Spawr said. “His body just blossomed. He changed so much and he’s got so much confidence.”

Amazombie crossed the wire first in six of his next nine; he was disqualified once. Mike Smith has been aboard for all recent wins, including a 101 Beyer Speed Figure victory Jan. 29 in the Sunshine Millions Sprint.

The Sensational Star is scheduled for 6 1/2 furlongs on the hill, but rain could cause it to be moved to dirt. That would be better for Amazombie, who stands out over nine rivals.

If he runs as expected Sunday, Amazombie could ship to Oaklawn Park for the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet on April 14. Spawr has won the Count Fleet three times, with Bordonaro (twice) and Mister Gennaro.