04/07/2017 4:55PM

Awesome Gem arrives at Old Friends Equine Retirement

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Benoit & Associates
Awesome Gem won the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup as a 7-year-old.

Grade 1 winner Awesome Gem arrived at Old Friends Equine Retirement in Georgetown, Ky. on Friday.

The 14-year-old Awesome Again gelding has been living as a pensioner on the farm of Leigh Gray in Bradbury, Calif. following a short stint as a stable pony for trainer Craig Dollase, who conditioned the horse throughout his seven-year racing career. He raced for West Point Thoroughbreds and retired in September 2012.

“Terry Finley [president and CEO of West Point] called me a few months ago and asked if we would be interested in having Awesome Gem at the farm, and I freaked out,” Old Friends founder and president Michael Blowen said. “He’s so good looking, and he had such a wonderfully long career. He came in completely sound.”

While Blowen accepted the offer without hesitation, he told Finley that Awesome Gem would have to wait for an opening in the farm’s crowded roster before he made the cross-country trip. Blowen said he made the call to bring him to Old Friends about three weeks ago.

“We just thought we have a great relationship with the people at Old Friends, and a lot of his partners still follow him,” said Erin Birkenhauer, racing manager and director of communications at West Point. “He was happy, but we just thought it would be nice for him to have visitors and be around more people.”

Awesome Gem retired from the track with 11 wins in 52 starts for earnings of $2,881,370, highlighted by a victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, which he won at age 7. Other notable wins include the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup and San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes, and the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap, Longacres Mile Handicap, and Berkley Handicap.

His 16 graded placings included a third to Curlin in the mud-soaked 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and in-the-money efforts in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic Stakes, Eddie Read Stakes, and two editions of the Goodwood Stakes. He also competed in the 2008 Hong Kong Mile.

West Point purchased Awesome Gem for $150,000 at the 2005 Barretts March select sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Awesome Gem was bred in Kentucky by the partnership of Runnymede Farm, Catesby Clay, and Peter Callahan. He is the most successful runner out of his dam, the unraced Pentelicus mare Piano.

Birkenhauer said Awesome Gem never lost his racehorse mentality while being groomed for a second career, which made it tough for him to find a job under saddle. Turning him out at Gray’s farm proved to be a more agreeable situation for the gelding.

“For the last few months, he’s been turned out with a cow,” Birkenhauer said. “One of the mares that he was turned out with foaled early, and there are pictures of him, the mare, and the baby all out in the field. He’s very protective. He’s like a big dog.”