11/24/2011 4:30PM

Aqueduct: Awesome Feather returns to Grade 1 in Gazelle


OZONE PARK, N.Y. − Fifty-five weeks after capping an undefeated championship season with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs, Awesome Feather returns to Grade 1 competition when she runs in Saturday’s $250,000 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct.

A field of 10 was entered for the Gazelle, but Marion Ravenwood will scratch after winning Thursday’s off-the-turf Capades Stakes. The Gazelle, run at 1 1/8 miles, is the last of four stakes on Saturday’s 10-race program at Aqueduct and is the final Grade 1 race to be run this year in New York.

Awesome Feather went 6 for 6 last year and was named champion 2-year-old filly following her emphatic victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies when owned by Fred Brei and trained by Stanley Gold.

Purchased by Frank Stronach for $2.3 million at auction last November, Awesome Feather missed most of her 3-year-old season because of a tendon issue that nearly forced her retirement. She returned to the races in the Le Slew overnight stakes at Belmont on Oct. 5, when she won by two lengths over a modest group. That race was at seven furlongs. Saturday, Awesome Feather tries 1 1/8 miles for the first time and faces a better, though not an overly accomplished, group.

“I think the biggest thing about the last race was we didn’t put her under that much pressure in the morning,” trainer Chad Brown said. “We had been training her and breezing her, but there’s nothing like the pressure of a race. There’s no way to assimilate that in the morning. Not only did she run well, she came out of the race well.

“She hasn’t changed at all,” Brown said. “She looks good to me. She looks completely sound and healthy. This race is clearly much, much more difficult than her last race. On the other hand, I know she’s had one race at full speed and done well, and I’m pretty confident she’s going to run well.”

Savvy Supreme, a full sister to Commentator and one of three entrants from trainer Todd Pletcher, is the only other graded stakes winner in the field, having taken the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks in August. She appears to be one of several who figure to be on or near the lead.

A contested pace would benefit Draw It, who has finished second in five of her seven starts, including all four on fast dirt tracks. She has shown marked improvement with blinkers, which trainer Tom Albertrani put on after Draw It finished second to Love and Pride in the Proud Spell at Saratoga in August.

“We put blinkers on her two races back, and she looked like she got more involved early on,” Albertrani said. “She didn’t seem to fall back too much. We’re looking for a good effort this weekend.”R Gypsy Gold, a daughter of Bernardini, enters the Gazelle off two strong races run around one turn at Belmont. She defeated Draw It by two lengths in the Real Prize Stakes going 1 1/16 miles Oct. 27.

Miss Valentine won the Mom’s Command at Belmont around one turn but has run well around two turns. Her connections are concerned, however, about the rail post.

Bryan’s Jewel, Purple Cat, Love and Pride, and Daring Reality complete the field.


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