05/18/2011 4:39PM

Belmont Park: Awesome Maria to give weight in Shuvee


The presence of Awesome Maria apparently scared off most of the competition from Saturday’s Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont Park.

Although 25 fillies and mares were nominated to the $150,000, one-mile Shuvee, just four challengers for Awesome Maria appeared in the entry box on Wednesday, and one of those, Happy week, is a Todd Pletcher stablemate.

Among the notable absentees from the Shuvee is multiple stakes winner Harissa, whose connections were reportedly pointing to this race after skipping the Humana Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard two weeks ago.

Awesome Maria, coming off a pair of decisive victories in the Grade 3 Sabin and Grade 3 Rampart at Gulfstream Park, drew post 3 and must spot her opponents between seven and 10 pounds as the 123-pound highweight.

The stiffest challenge to Awesome Maria is liable to come from the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Absinthe Minded. During a winter campaign at Oaklawn Park, Absinthe Minded wired the field in the $100,000 Bayakoa and set the pace until weakening late in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, earning a 104 Beyer Speed Figure that compares favorably to the pair of 102’s Awesome Maria recorded in her two most recent races. Absinthe Minded most recently led for the first six furlongs of the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs before fading to fourth.

In addition to Happy Week, who will race uncoupled from Awesome Maria, the rest of the Shuvee lineup consists of R Betty Graybull, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Ladies Handicap on March 26, and Spa City Princess, winner of a one-mile overnight stakes restricted to New York-breds two starts ago.

Rushing to represent Prado

Mike Sellitto, the agent for jockey Edgar Prado, is scheduled to undergo heart surgery on Friday and will be out of commission for several weeks. Steve Rushing, the agent for Ramon Dominguez, will handle Prado’s engagements until Sellitto returns. Rushing was Prado’s agent when he rode in Maryland and first came to New York in 1999.

Sellitto, who had served as Kent Desormeaux’s agent the last several years, underwent heart surgery a couple of years ago to repair one valve. Sellitto said now he has to undergo surgery to repair a different heart valve.

Sellitto said he hopes to be back to work in three weeks.

- additional reporting by David Grening