02/19/2011 7:34PM

Awesome Maria romps in Sabin


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Todd Pletcher continued his domination of the older filly and mare handicap division at Gulfstream Park this winter after sending Awesome Maria out to a decisive 4 3/4-length victory over the 8-5 favorite, Amen Hallelujah, in Saturday's $100,000 Sabin.

Six days earlier, Pletcher won Hurricane Bertie in similarly dominant fashion with Hilda's Passion. Both the one-mile Sabin and 6 1/2-furlong Hurricane Bertie are Grade 3 events.

Making her first start since finishing second in the Grade 1 Gazelle on Nov. 27, Awesome Maria forced the pace of Catch a Thief while well held by jockey John Velazquez, readily turned back a bid from Amen Hallelujah in early stretch then drew off to an easy victory. Amen Hallelujah was clearly second best, finishing 5 1/4 lengths in front of the tiring Catch a Thief.

Awesome Maria, a 4-year-old homebred daughter of Maria's Mon, completed the distance in 1:36.38 over a fast track and paid $6.20.

"For whatever reason she's trained like a different horse since she got to Palm Meadows, she's really thrived here," said Pletcher. "We had a good post and the race unfolded pretty much the way we thought it would and when it was time to punch she kicked on."

Pletcher said he will have little trouble keeping his two graded stakes winning older mares separated this year.

"Hilda's Passion is best at six to seven furlongs, while this filly will run a little further, so the Rampart might make sense for her next," said Pletcher.

The 1 1/8-mile, Grade 3 Rampart will be run here on April 2.