04/08/2017 3:42PM

Commonwealth distance proves just right for Awesome Slew

Coady Photography
Awesome Slew is headed to the Grade 2 Churchill Downs after winning the Commonwealth by 1 1/2 lengths under Joel Rosario.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Commonwealth Stakes represented a fork in the road for Awesome Slew.

“I told the owner before the race, if this is too short, we go next in the Alysheba,” said Mark Casse, who trains 4-year-old Awesome Slew for owner-breeder Charlotte Weber of Live Oak Stud. “If it’s just right, we’ll go in the Churchill Downs.”

Well, the Grade 2, $500,000 Churchill Downs on the May 6 Kentucky Derby undercard definitely is next for Awesome Slew after the colt launched a huge off-the-pace run to post a 1 1/2-length victory Saturday in the 31st running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Commonwealth, the first of five straight graded stakes on the Blue Grass Stakes program at Keeneland.

Turning back from a series of longer races on the East Coast, Awesome Slew settled into a comfortable stride down the backstretch of the seven-furlong Commonwealth and still had only one rival beaten when he began picking up momentum under Joel Rosario. Down the stretch, Awesome Slew, a Florida-bred colt by Awesome Again, unleashed a torrid run when farthest outside.

“They got away from me a little bit,” said Rosario. “I was really happy when he grabbed the bit and started rolling.”

Awesome Slew returned $8.20 as second choice in a field of nine older horses when finishing in 1:22.31 over a fast track.

Limousine Liberal set the pace before finally yielding near the eighth pole to A.P. Indian, the 9-5 favorite making his first start since the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. A.P. Indian bested all the others while unable to stave off Awesome Slew.

“I’m so excited the big horse is back,” said Joe Bravo, the regular rider of A.P. Indian. “Running second there was no disgrace, the way the winner ran. I can’t wait until the next match. This horse is back to his old self.”

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Liberal Limousine, also unraced since the BC Sprint, held third, two lengths behind A.P. Indian and another 1 3/4 lengths before Ami’s Flatter.

“He ran his race,” said Ben Colebrook, trainer of Limousine Liberal. “He kind of inherited the lead. Hopefully he’ll get a lot out of this one.”

After the top four, the order was Redesdale, Fish Trappe Road, Tale of S’avall, Yockey’s Warrior, and Riding in the Wind.

The $2 exacta (9-8) paid $26.20, the $1 trifecta (9-8-3) returned $65.10, and the 10-cent superfecta (9-8-3-7) was worth $20.28.

The Commonwealth was the fourth victory for Awesome Slew from 11 career starts, with the $150,000 winner’s share lifting his bankroll to $540,420. It was his second stakes win, following the Grade 3 Smarty Jones last September at Parx when the colt was still trained by Eddie Plesa. Casse assumed the colt’s training in Florida prior to his most recent start in early February.

The Churchill Downs also will be run at seven furlongs, while the May 5 Alysheba goes at 1 1/16 miles.