01/26/2012 12:54PM

Gulfstream: Sunshine Millions Distaff no easy spot for Awesome Feather


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Though technically Awesome Feather is dropping from a Grade 1 race to a restricted stakes, trainer Chad Brown knows that Saturday’s $300,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park is no easy spot.

Awesome Feather will put her 8-for-8 record on the line against the improving Tiz the Argument, the defending Distaff winner Sweet Repent, and the consistent Delightful Mary in the Distaff, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles over the main track.

“My filly’s going to have to run a real race,” said Brown, who trains Awesome Feather for owner Frank Stronach, who is also the creator of the Sunshine Millions series. “I’ve been happy with her two races for me. She’s training super, but this is no lay-up. She’s going to have to run.”

[GULFSTREAM: Watch video previews and see Saturday's full card live]

Awesome Feather, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2010, will be running for the first time since she won the Grade 1 Gazelle last Nov. 26 at Aqueduct. That was her second start since Brown brought Awesome Feather back from a tendon injury that nearly ended her career. Brown said that Awesome Feather has trained as well at Palm Meadows this winter as she did at Belmont last year.

“You never know when you take them to a new venue, new surface, new surroundings, but I haven’t seen anything different to be honest with you,” Brown said.

Jeffrey Sanchez, aboard Awesome Feather for all eight of her victories, will ride her again from post 3. As the 123-pound highweight, Awesome Feather is conceding four to six pounds to her five rivals.

The main threat looks to be Tiz the Argument, a daughter of Closing Argument who has won three consecutive races for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. The last race was a 7 3/4-length victory in an overnight stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 18.

While this will be the longest distance Tiz the Argument has run, Dutrow said he is more concerned with the stiffer competition than the 1 1/8 miles.

“She’s never run with these kind but we’re not afraid to try it,” Dutrow said. “I’m not afraid of the distance for her. She’s training good. She’s ready for bigger and better I hope.”

Dutrow said Tiz the Argument is a little flighty mentally, which is why he is glad the filly has had a month to acclimate to Gulfstream Park.

“She’s just got maybe a little thing with her mind, but she’s getting so much better,” Dutrow said. “But I’m glad we get to run her out of her stall again.”

Ramon Dominguez rides Tiz the Argument from post 2 under 117 pounds.

Delightful Mary finished third to Awesome Feather in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She has won 3 of 4 starts since then, including a dead-heat victory with R Holiday Mood in the Ocala Stakes here on Jan. 8. That race was a one-turn mile.

“We’re not still convinced yet she wants to go two turns, but we’ll give it a shot,” trainer Mark Casse said. “If she doesn’t run well here we’ll probably cut her back to sprinting.”

Sweet Repent, who won this race last year when it was open to both Florida-breds and California-breds, makes the 20th and final start of her career. She will be bred to Giant’s Causeway later this year. She has won 10 of her previous 19 starts and is being reunited with jockey Manoel Cruz, who was aboard for last year’s win in this race.

My Pal Chrisy, who won two stakes at Calder before running fourth in an open allowance here on Dec. 22, completes the field.