03/29/2012 2:42PM

Gulfstream Park: Awesome Maria looks tough to beat in Rampart

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Barbara D. Livingston
Awesome Maria will be a heavy favorite in Saturday’s $150,000 Rampart at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Saturday’s $150,000 Rampart at Gulfstream Park had been shaping up to be an awesome race, both literally and figuratively, with the undefeated Eclipse Award winner Awesome Feather expected to square off against defending champion Awesome Maria at 1 1/8 miles in the Grade 3 fixture for older fillies and mares.

But with the announcement earlier this week that Awesome Feather would not run, the Rampart has turned into what appears to be little more than a public workout for Awesome Maria who seemingly holds a decisive class edge over her five overmatched rivals.

Awesome Maria returned from an eight-month layoff to defeat Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic and Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta by a decisive eight lengths while defending her title in the Grade 3 Sabin on Feb. 25. That was the same margin of victory the homebred daughter of Maria’s Mon posted capturing the 2011 Rampart for her owner, Joyce Robsham, and trainer Todd Pletcher.

The Sabin was the first start for Awesome Maria since she captured the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap late last spring at Belmont Park.

[FLORIDA DERBY: Video previews, watch Saturday's full card live]

“She came back and ran every bit as well as she had before the time off, and it was nice to see her do that,” Pletcher said. “Obviously, there are bigger purses elsewhere, but we know she loves Gulfstream, she was successful at this distance and in this race last year, and Mrs. Robsham spends the winter in south Florida, so this is the race we’ve been pointing for all along.”

Awesome Maria, who is perfect in three starts at Gulfstream, will carry high weight of 123 pounds in the Rampart, including regular rider John Velazquez, while conceding six pounds to each of her six rivals.

“I don’t know if there’s room for improvement off that last race, I’m just hoping for the same kind of performance again on Saturday,” Pletcher said.

Awesome Maria’s top competition could come from Lacie Slew, who shipped to Laurel earlier this winter to register her first stakes victory in the nine-furlong Maryland Racing Media Stakes.

“We’re always supportive of the home team, the racing office needed horses to fill the race, and me and my connections were glad to be able to help,” said Peter Walder, who took over the training of Lacie Slew during spring 2011. “We’re running against a monster, just hoping to pick up some graded earnings and if the favorite stubs her toe who knows, maybe we can beat her. That’s why they run the race.”

Trainer Marty Wolfson has entered a pair for the Rampart – Beloveda and Canadian Mistress. Beloveda has won three races in a row and six of her last seven starts against lesser competition.

Go Unbridled and My Pal Chrissy complete the field.

Rampart S. (G3), Post Time: 1:26 ET Saturday

Purse: $150,000; 1 1/8 miles

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Beloveda

M. Wolfson

J. Castellano

3-1

1

Go Unbridled

H. Jerkens

J. Leparoux

12-1

1

Lacie Slew

P. Walder

J. Rocco, Jr.

6-1

1

Canadian Mistress

M. Wolfson

E. Trujillo

8-1

1

Awesome Maria

T. Pletcher

J. Velasquez

3-5

1

My Pal Christy

P. Lutchman

L. Panici

15-1