10/29/2010 4:28PM

Awesome Gem headed to BC Marathon

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Benoit & Associates
Awesome Gem, David Flores up, wins the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup winner Awesome Gem is headed toward Friday's 1 3/4-mile Breeder's Cup Marathon on the Churchill main track, rather than the Saturday's Dirt Mile, said Jeff Lifson, vice president of Midwest operations for West Point Thoroughbreds.

After being pre-entered in both races Monday, with the Dirt Mile listed as first preference, the switch comes as somewhat of a surprise.

Awesome Gem, a late-running 7-year-old who is set to make his fourth Breeders' Cup start, "has found a lot of trouble in his long, long career," Lifson said. "We felt at 1 3/4 miles, he might not get into trouble."

He said jockey David Flores expressed belief to trainer Craig Dollase and West Point management that Awesome Gem, a son of 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, could handle the lengthy distance.

Awesome Gem has handled most else in his 38-race career, amassing a bankroll of more than $2.2 million and winning races on dirt, turf and synthetic tracks -- at a variety of distances.

The one thing he has not done is race over 1 3/4 miles, though such options are extremely limited for dirt horses in North America.

By bypassing the Dirt Mile in favor of the Marathon, Awesome Gem will also be among softer company. In contrast to the Dirt Mile, which is considered one of the deepest and strongest of the Breeders' Cup, the Marathon lacks such apparent quality.