09/18/2012 11:50AM

Belmont Park: Awesome Feather returning with eye to Breeders' Cup

Barbara D. Livingston
Awesome Feather shows eight workouts over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track since July 10.

ELMONT, N.Y. – With hopes of making it next to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, the undefeated champion Awesome Feather returns to the races off an eight-month layoff Thursday in the $85,000 Nasty Storm Stakes at Belmont Park.

Awesome Feather, who was the champion 2-year-old filly of 2010, will be making just her fourth start since winning the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in the Nasty Storm, a one-mile race that goes as the third on Belmont’s nine-race card.

Early in her 3-year-old year, after being purchased the previous November for $2.3 million at Keeneland’s November sale by Frank Stronach, Awesome Feather was found to have a bowed tendon. She returned to the races last October in a similar spot as this, winning a seven-furlong overnight stakes at Belmont by two lengths before dominating the Grade 1 Gazelle at Aqueduct in November.

Awesome Feather, trained by Chad Brown, kicked off her 4-year-old campaign with a visually impressive 5 3/4-length score in the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28. She was headed back to graded stakes competition, but came out of a March 18 workout at Palm Meadows with a problem and was again sidelined.

“She came out of a workout not 100 percent up front, so we had the Adena Springs team look at her. They found what the issue was,” Brown said. “It just required some time. They were nice enough to leave her with me, and as we’ve done all along, we worked together. We rechecked her several times, and she seems good to go.”

Awesome Feather was training regularly during the summer and shows eight workouts over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track since July 10.

“She’s got a nice string of works at Saratoga,” Brown said. “She looks like she’s doing really well. We’re hopeful to get to the Breeders’ Cup, so this looks like a logical spot to maybe get us there.”

Awesome Feather has to carry top weight of 124 pounds, spotting seven pounds to all but one of her rivals. Withgreatpleasure, an overnight stakes winner at Delaware Park, will carry 121 pounds.

“It’s always a challenge being a high-weighted horse off this long of a layoff,” said Brown, who also has Kid Kate entered and ready to run in this spot. “With an undefeated horse, it’s a rare situation. It’s always concerning for a trainer, for sure. There’s not much I can do about it. She’s 9 for 9, she’s going to have to carry weight, she’s going to have to deal with a layoff.”

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. entered four horses in the Nasty Storm, but as of Tuesday morning was uncertain which of the quartet would run. He indicated that All Due Respect, beaten two lengths in the Grade 1 Ballerina, was likely to start. The other three – Tiz the Argument, Acting Happy, and Believe In A.P. – comprise a Jay Em Ess Stable-owned entry. Tiz the Argument or Acting Happy has to scratch as John Velazquez is named on both.

Cash for Clunkers, second in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps over this track in May, is another contender in this spot.

Also on Thursday’s card is the $80,000 The Given Stakes, for 3-year-old fillies going a mile on the turf. Colonial Flag, winner of a Grade 3 at Woodbine in her last start and an allowance winner over this course in May, heads the 12-horse field.