03/31/2012 1:33PM

Gulfstream: Awesome Maria takes care of business

Barbara D. Livingston
Awesome Maria will likely be pointed for the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park next.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Although the final result of Saturday’s $150,000 Rampart at Gulfstream Park may have been a foregone conclusion to most, Awesome Maria still had to go out and run her race. And that she did, by defending her title as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 3 Rampart with a very workmanlike 2 1/4-length decision over the late-running Beloveda.

The Rampart gave trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey John Velazquez, and owner Joyce Robsham their second consecutive stakes win on the card. The trio had teamed up 30 minutes earlier to win the Sir Shackleton with Travelin Man.

“Any time you run a horse everyone expects to win, anything less than a win is disappointing and that’s tough,” said Pletcher. “But it’s also a good feeling to know you’re running the best horse.”

Awesome Maria, who returned from an eight-month layoff to easily defeat Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta by eight lengths in the Grade 3 Sabin here last month, broke a step slow under regular rider John Velazquez but quickly recovered to stalk the early pace of Canadian Mistress. Awesome Maria engaged the leader and stuck her nose in front midway on the second turn, gradually drew off to a comfortable advantage near midstretch, and was never seriously menaced thereafter.

Beloveda, a former claimer making her stakes debut in the Rampart, came into the race having won her last three starts and six of her last seven. She raced well placed for six furlongs, eased out into the stretch, and finished willingly to easily best the others.

Canadian Mistress gradually weakened once relinquishing the lead to the winner but held on to finish third, followed by Lacie Slew, Go Unbridled, and My Pal Chrisy.

Awesome Maria, a homebred daughter of Maria’s Mon, completed a mile and one-eighth in 1:48.19 seconds over the fast track and paid $2.20. Her final time was less than a second off the course record set by Quality Road two years earlier.

“The trip went perfectly,” said Pletcher. “She sat in the garden spot stalking the pace. She had to give six pounds to the field, was coming off a big race in her last start and she ran 1:48 over this track, so overall I thought it was a very good effort. She’s been genuine every time. It was important that she proved she had regained her form from last year because she is a very valuable broodmare prospect. Now that we know she has, we’ll probably look at the Phipps next, a race at Saratoga, and then go from there.”

Awesome Maria was sidelined by a condylar fracture following her three-length victory last June in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps.