09/04/2010 11:46AM

Awesome Attack vs. Hamm entry in Cradle at River Downs

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Pat Byrne trained Awesome Again to an undefeated season and a Breeders’ Cup Classic victory in 1998, so he knows a good horse when he sees one. Having slipped under the racing radar in recent years, Byrne will be trying to recapture a sliver of the national spotlight Monday when he sends out a son of Awesome Again named Awesome Attack in the showcase race of the River Downs meet, the $100,000 Cradle Stakes.

Awesome Attack, owned by Chuck and Maribeth Sandford of Chicago, drew post 1 as one of nine 2-year-olds in the Cradle, a 1 1/16-mile turf race that closes out the second of two 2010 meets at the Cincinnati track. The likely Cradle favorite is a three-horse entry trained by Tim Hamm, with Rustler Hustler, a last-out winner of the Continental Mile at Monmouth Park, looking the strongest of the trio.

“Rustler Hustler looks legitimate to me,” said Byrne, who has nine horses at Churchill Downs. “But I love my horse. He was absolutely flying at the end of his first race after the light finally went on, and he was very professional in winning the Cradle prep,” which he did with ease on Aug. 14. “I hope I’m not too high on him, but I think there’s a lot of blue sky there.”

Rustler Hustler surged to a neck victory at 14-1 in the Aug. 14 Continental Mile, his turf debut, earning a field-high Beyer Speed Figure of 83. Rustler Hustler will be linked for wagering purposes with stablemates Cat Sweep and Lesson Learned.

The Cradle had been worth $200,000 in recent years, but declining handle and the lowest purse structure at River in many years led track officials to announce in July that the Cradle purse was being cut in half.

The Cradle goes as the 10th of 11 races, with post time set for 5:37 p.m. Eastern on a closing-day card that starts at 12:55. River goes solo Monday, with no cross-simulcasting with Thistledown.

Monday is Old Friends Day at River, with special events being held to raise funds and recognize the efforts being made at the Thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky.

River is split into two meets, the Turf Club meet and Jockey Club meet.