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Awesome Gem strikes Gold at Hawthorne
Special the Daily Herald
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Published: 10/3/2009 7:44 PM

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Awesome Gem, the 3-1 second choice, scored a length-and-a-quarter victory in Saturday's $500,000 Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Under a confident ride by veteran reinsman David Flores, Awesome Gem saved ground in the early going, angled out when they turned for home, and rallied under steady pressure.

Flores was ecstatic.

"I thought that if we were sitting four or five lengths off the lead we would be in a good spot," he said. "The horse is doing so good right now. I worked him last week. He's racing like he never did before. I was confident. We were in good position after the first turn. I was pretty much looking for the right spot and he was taking me there pretty easily. At the top of the stretch I tapped him left handed and he just went on really nice.

"He ran a great race in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the only other time he ran on an off track. He came running late in that race, the same way he did today. But, he can handle any track."

Awesome Gem's share of the $500,000 guaranteed purse, $282,000, boosted his career earnings to $1,695,882.

Jon Court was aboard runner-up Nite Light.

"He ran an honest, strong race," Court said. "I had horse at the end, but he just didn't have the turn of foot. He's more of a steady grinder. He's just a big horse, it takes him awhile to get his footing, but when he does he just stays with it."

Of Nite Light's effort, assistant trainer Michael McCarthy said, "It was a good performance under less than ideal conditions."

Luis Quininez, who rode third-place finisher Going Ballistic, said, "I just rode the horse the same as I did the last time. He was last most of the way and he started moving good but we just ran out of track."

• Even-money favorite Abby's Angel, from the barn of Michael Stidham, bobbled a bit at the start but wasted little time getting to an unchallenged lead and quickly drew away from the field in Saturday's co-featured Indian Maid Handicap.

The Indian Maid, with a purse of $113,100, was originally scheduled for the turf but moved to the main track, rated muddy, after steady rain through much of Friday and early Saturday.

For Darley Stable's Abby's Angel, who had never raced on grass, that might have been to her advantage. Jon Court rode the winner.

"She had the speed and it was uncontested," Court said. "I was able to dictate a comfortable pace and I was able to finish with plenty of horse underneath me. In my opinion, it may have been an advantage to us when they took it off the turf. Everything came together."

Tim Thornton, rider of second-place finisher Hungry Tigress, spoke highly of his mount: "The filly ran her race. That was a nice horse we were racing today. We just got outrun."