01/21/2017 9:34PM

Hawaakom goes from last to first in Louisiana Stakes

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NEW ORLEANS – Hawaakom will run into a horse here and there that simply is better than he, but the admirable 7-year-old gelding will not lose races because he didn’t try hard enough.

Still last behind a slow pace turning for home in the $75,000 Louisiana Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds, Hawaakom slipped up the rail into contending position under Miguel Mena, made an athletic move from the fence going to the fourth path while just off heels at the furlong pole, and then took aim on Dazzling Gem at the furlong pole. Dazzling Gem had made the lead fairly comfortably and for a moment looked like a winner, but he is a 4-year-old with just eight starts, and he was left reeling by Hawaakom’s attack. Hawaakom clipped quickly past to take command, crossing the wire three-quarters of a length in front. Dazzling Gem was 2 1/4 lengths better than Rocket Time.

“He loves racing,” said trainer Wes Hawley, who owns Hawaakom in partnership with Stephan Smoot. “I’ve never had him not try yet.”

Hawley claimed Hawaakom for just $15,000 in November 2014. Last year alone, Hawaakom put together an 11-3-2-3 record with earnings of more than $300,000, and he crept up on a half-million dollars in purse money with his Saturday win. Hawaakom is by Jazil and out of the Lahib mare Nafisah. He was bred by Shadwell Farm, who raced him early in his career.

Carve made the lead and set a slow quarter-mile split of 24.73 seconds, but the half went in a more reasonable 48.59, giving Hawley hope that the leaders would come back enough for Hawaakom to catch them. The victim of several slow paces last season, Hawaakom traveled smoothly around the far turn while staying in range, and benefited saving ground all the way past the quarter pole, one of many good decisions Mena made on a card where he won three stakes.

Hawaakom was timed in 1:44.01 for 1 1/16 miles over a muddy, sealed surface, and paid $9.60 to win.

Hawley said he would make his next start in the Mineshaft Stakes on Feb. 25 at Fair Grounds or the $500,000 Razorback Handicap on Feb. 20 at Oaklawn Park.