04/26/2014 8:35PM

Awesome Return gets good trip in Snow Chief


ARCADIA, Calif. - Awesome Return was bowling along in fifth place on the backstretch of Saturday’s $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes on turf at Santa Anita when jockey Joe Talamo peeked between his legs to check on the status of his rivals, notably 3-2 favorite Tamarando.

Awesome Return had a length lead on Tamarando at the time. That gave Talamo more confidence.

“I had a ton of horse the whole way,” Talamo said.

Awesome Return was brilliant the whole way, taking the lead in early stretch and holding off a sustained effort from Patriots Rule to win the rich race for California-bred 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles by three-quarters of a length.

Awesome Return ($10.20) was timed in 1:48.88, winning his first stakes.

And the tactics needed to win surprised Talamo.

“We had a good trip,” Talamo said. “I didn’t think I’d be that close. I found an opening at the quarter-pole and he did the rest. I thought they’d go a little quicker.”

Pray Hard set an early pace of 24.31 and 48.81 seconds. Awesome Return trailed by three lengths on the backstretch, a margin that dissipated rapidly on the turn. With a four-wide rally, Awesome Return took the lead in early stretch.

Patriots Rule, who won a $50,000 claiming race for maidens in his second start in January, finished three-quarters of a length in front of Alert Bay, the winner of the Echo Eddie Stakes for California-bred sprinters on April 5.

Tamarando, the winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and two other stakes, finished fourth, two lengths behind Awesome Return. Frensham, who had trouble in the initial strides when he swerved to the inside and nearly struck the turf rail, finished fifth, followed by Aotearoa, Kukaluka,  and Pray Hard.

Patriots Rule closed well from last in the field of eight to be second, but could not catch the winner. Jockey Francisco Perez told trainer Robertino Diodoro that Patriots Rule was reluctant to close on the inside of horses on the turn.

 “He said he had to around,” Diodoro said. “He didn’t want to go inside of horses. The horse has really come around and he likes the grass.”

Awesome Return races for breeder Richard Kritzski and trainer Mike Puype. By Decarchy, Awesome Return has won 2 of 6 starts and $201,108. In his only other stakes appearance, Awesome Return was fourth behind California Chrome in the $250,000 California Cup Derby on dirt here on Jan. 25.

California Chrome won his next two starts – the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 8 and the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5 – and will be favored to win the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs next Saturday.