LONE STAR PARK HANDICAP | PURSE: $300,000 | GRADE: 3 | 1 1/16 MILES
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- Awesome Gem still has got it at 8. He rallied for a one-length win in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on Monday, then withstood a claim of foul to nail down the fourth graded stakes win of a career that began in 2006.
"What a warrior," said Craig Dollase, who trains Awesome Gem for West Point Thoroughbreds.
The Lone Star Park Handicap was the richest race of the meet and the anchor of the annual Million Day program of six stakes. The races are worth a cumulative $1 million and make for the richest card of Thoroughbred racing in Texas. Other top winners on the card included Wasted Tears ($2.80) in the Grade 3, $200,000 Ouija Board Distaff and Thirtyfirststreet ($45.80) in the $200,000 Lone Star Derby.
Awesome Gem ($12.40) settled in fourth in the field of five on Monday, as Lydia's Last Step jumped out to the lead and was pressed by Game On Dude through an opening six furlongs in 1:11.20. Awesome Gem began to advance past the half-mile pole, came three wide into the stretch, and shook Lydia's Last Step then Game On Dude to win the 1 1/16-mile race on a track rated fast in 1:43.48.
"When I called on him, he came with his run," said Robby Albarado, who was aboard Awesome Gem.
The race tightened up in the stretch, and Martin Garcia, who was aboard favorite and third-place finisher Game On Dude, claimed foul against Awesome Gem.
"At the top of the stretch, the winner came on top of me and then I had to check and go outside," Garcia said. "But I think I should have run second."
Flat Out finished second, 1 ¼ lengths in front of Game On Dude.
Awesome Gem removed blinkers two starts ago after wearing them his entire career and it seems to have been a benefit, said Dollase.
"It's like he's got a revived sense of run in him now without blinkers," Dollase said. "He had a lot left in him today."
Dollase said the next stop for Awesome Gem is the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9, a race he won last year. Awesome Gem will fly back to his Southern California base on Monday.
"We're looking forward to getting back to defend our title," said Dollase.
* Handle on the 10-race Monday card from all sources was $1,930,617. Attendance ontrack was 10,354.