Kaleem Shah Inc.’s Awesome Baby has proven to be a horse of a different color
this season, wiring the Santa Ynez in her three-year-old debut on January 4 and
duplicating that effort Saturday with a 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3,
Ysabel at Santa Anita Park.
The score gave the dark bay daughter of Awesome Again another 50 points
toward a starting berth in the Grade 1, $1 million Kentucky Oaks, and she is now
third on the leaderboard with 60 points following the initial 10 she earned in
the Santa Ynez for trainer Bob Baffert.
Jockey Mike Smith was in the irons for the first time aboard Awesome Baby in
her seasonal bow, and retained the mount on Saturday. The duo broke on top from
their inside post and set the pace through fractions of :23 2/5, :46 2/5, 1:09
4/5 and 1:34 4/5. Artemis tracked Awesome Baby at first before applying pressure
when attempting to slip through on the inside.
Awesome Baby merely picked up the pace and opened up on her rival once again
heading into the turn. Artemis and Swiss Lake Yodeler tried to close the gap
between them and the leader, but were left to battle it out for second as
Awesome Baby drew away in the stretch to finish 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 2/5 over a
track labeled wet-fast (sealed) but appeared sloppy.
“The game plan was to break and get a clear lead so we could give her a
chance to take a breather,” Smith explained. “We weren’t sure that she would go long; she didn’t at two.
We got the first quarter in :23 and it was all her after that.
Bob that I don’t know if it was her turning three or the mud today, but I
finished with something left. That was real impressive to me since I didn’t know
if she was going to get the distance at all. And, not only did we get it, but
she was well within herself at the wire and pulled up with a lot of energy. I
was really impressed.
“I love riding in this stuff; I come from back East. It’s
the tracks that are drying out that no one really likes but these wet-fast
tracks, they’re great to ride on.”
“She’s been working
really well and we’ve been pointing her for this race,” Baffert declared. “I was
a little bit worried about the off track, but she was very professional today
and we were hoping she would run this well. Mike did a great job of keeping her
on the lead.”
Awesome Baby was the 2-1 second choice in the scratch depleted five-filly
field and returned $6.20 for the win. Artemis got second by a half-length over
Swiss Lake Yodeler with Saintly Joan a distant 7 1/2 lengths behind in fourth.
Be Proud trailed home in last. Anniversary Kitty, Sweet Bliss and Tiz Kissable
were all withdrawn.
Awesome Baby showed signs of promise when taking her August 4 maiden debut at
Del Mar by 4 3/4 lengths, but then never factored when seventh in the Del Mar
Debutante and a well-beaten fifth in the Chandelier to close out her juvenile
campaign. She returned to form in the Santa Ynez, and now boasts a 5-3-0-0,
$230,250, career record.
Bred in Kentucky by Nicholas and Debbie Sibilio, Awesome Baby was purchased
for $220,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The dark bay miss is the first
stakes winner out of the Running Stag mare Miss Attractive, who is a half-sister
to stakes scorers Amiable Grace and Miss Tizzy. Awesome Baby’s female family
also includes 1991 Kentucky Derby-winning sire Strike the Gold as well as 1972
English champion two-year-old colt Noble Decree.