Sunday, July 11, 2010

Vanquished Foes Return Victorious

Awesome Gem, Jessica is Back, Big Drama, and Gio Ponti. What do these four horses have in common? They were all beaten by either Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra at some point in their career then came back to score in a Grade one event.

Awesome Gem has been a gem of consistency throughout his entire career. He can race on any surface at any distance and do it effectively. Before yesterday the chestnut gelding owned two Grade two wins over conventional dirt, one of them coming over a sloppy track. He has showed his versatility by racing over both Cushion Track Polytrack, forms of synthetic, and Turf placing second in the Grade on Goodwood, Pacific Classic and Sir Beaufort Stakes.

It took him a few years to accomplish, but yesterday Awesome Gem finally got that elusive Grade one win in the Hollywood Gold Cup, besting the California sensation Rail Trip in the process. After years of knocking on the door, it was good to see the old warrior finally get his day in the spotlight.

Gio Ponti, King of the American turf, came into the Man o' War Stakes riding, not a four race winning streak, but a four race losing streak. He snapped that streak with a decisive and measured decision over 53-1 longshot Mission Approved. The dual 2009 champion raced last of eight through nearly the entire race. With early fractions of 26.13, 52.27, and 1.18.07 for the first six furlongs the race was completely paceless and not setting up well for Gio Ponti. That mattered little as the field entered the stretch and Gio Ponti turned on the afterburners, getting up by a long neck at the line. The Champion is back and ready to rock and roll.

Across the country, at Calder racecourse, the Summit of speed was taking place and their two of Rachel Alexandra's fallen foes showed what they could do when outside the brilliant filly's shadow. The little mare has proven a solid performer over her six year career, racing 42 times and finishing in the top three 28 times. It was Saturday, where Jessica is Back would stop her competitors into the ground in the Grade one Princess Rooney.

Big Drama, fifth in the 2009 Preakness, a race where he attempted to run head to head with Rachel Alexandra, came back to earn his second victory of 2010 with an easy victory in the Smile Sprint. Big Drama rated third before advancing menacingly, three wide. At the top of the stretch Big Drama opened up nearly six lengths on the field, an advantage that cut to 3 1/4 by Mambo Meister, who rallied on for second, but was no match for Big Drama, who was still on cruise control.

I understand that many may feel that the Grade one wins by Jessica is Back and Big Drama do nothing to enhance the image of Rachel Alexandra because they were only sprints. I understand that Gio Ponti was racing on his proffered surface when he earned his first Grade one of the season and that Awesome Gem had the perfect trip while giving Rail Trip seven pounds. However, no matter what way you twist it, once these four got out from the shadows of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, they went from zero to Grade one hero.


  1. Rachel and Zenyatta are unbelievable ... what horses have done after being beaten by them, should prove that obvious fact in spades to even the most hard-headed doubter. But yet, the doubters remain.

  2. The fractions in the Man 'O' War were so slow I think it makes it all the more impressive how easy Gio Ponti's win appeared. Once he got that opening he was so quick and sure getting the lead it looked almost effortless.
    I love that Awesome Gem finally got his big win, he deserved that for sure!
    If Big Drama keeps going the way he is he's going to be a big threat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint I think.
    Great post, and I agree that wins by these horses just further "polish" the resumes of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.

  3. The doubters are delusional. Sorry to be blunt but they honestly are. If a person can't at least repect what these two mares have accomplished then they are not a fan of the sport in my book.

  4. It did make it more impressive, because he closed into the pace from last place. AG deserved it, his Grade one win. Though many, including myself feel RT was the better horse, yesterday was not his day and nothing should be taken away from AG. BD looked sensational as did his little bro, LD. Another horse that showed another dimension was BL pulling out all the stops in the slop. She is one classy filly.

  5. Great article and you acknowledge Rachel and Zenyatta, while at the same time saluting this weekend's winners.

    The most gratifying race for me was Gio Ponti's win in the Man o'War, which I felt was a thing of beauty.

  6. Thank you John. I thought it interesting that 4 horses, two for each mare came back to win in Grade ones.

    Gio was fantastic. Not many horses can sit dead last through such a paceless race then close in so effortlessly. Ask RT how hard it is to close into fractions like that. The amazing thing was is that Gio had the other horse measured and could've blown him out of the water if let loose.