Awesome Slew #14 with Paco Lopez riding won the $ 300,000 Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing
Awesome Slew, a Florida-bred who has distinguished himself as a graded stakes winner, has yet to race in restricted company, but that will change Saturday when he heads a field of eight in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park.
The 15th running of the Classic is one of five stakes for horses bred in the Sunshine State on the 12-race card.
A 4-year-old homebred for Live Oak Plantation, Awesome Slew enters the Classic, an 1 1/8-mile race for runners 4 years old and up, following a third-place finish in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park Dec. 17.
Eddie Plesa Jr., Awesome Slew’s trainer, gave consideration to running the son of Awesome Again in the initial running of the $ 400,000 Poseidon Handicap, one of the supporting stakes on the $ 12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) card Jan. 28, but the look of the Classic ultimately proved to be more attractive.
“I think it’s a good spot for him because it is restricted to Florida-breds,” Plesa said. “Live Oak does breed horses that are Florida-breds and it’s an opportunity for us to run in a race that certainly isn’t going to be anywhere near a Pegasus-type race.”
The last time Awesome Slew visited the winner’s circle was in the Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx Racing in September, the local prep for the Pennsylvania Derby (G2). Awesome Slew used his speed to wire the field in the Smarty Jones and scampered home a seventh-length winner. Nineteen days later, Awesome Slew led the field into the stretch of Pennsylvania Derby, but his early efforts left him leg weary and he wind up finishing fifth.
After some bumpy moments during his 3-year-old season, Plesa said he’s looking forward to the colt’s 2017 campaign.
“He’s just stepping up to the plate,” Plesa said. “He’s been compromised by odd things that happen to horses, sickness being his main thing, and we were trying to play catch-up all last year. We finally caught up in the Smarty Jones and then I ran him back a little quicker than he probably would have liked in the Pennsylvania Derby. He’s been training great and he’s doing great. I think he’ll hit his full stride this year.”
Javier Castellano will be partnered for the first time with Awesome Slew, who drew post 8.
Piloting, the runner-up to the Plesa-trained Mr. Jordan in the local prep for the Classic, the Millions Classic Preview Stakes, will represent trainer Mark Casse. The 6-year-old Piloting, who carries the colors of Westbury Stables LLC, set a pressured pace in the 1 1/16-mile Preview before yielding late to the odds-on Mr. Jordan.
A son of Tapit, Piloting is a winner of four races in 26 starts. The gelding is in search of his first stakes victory in the Classic.
“I’m excited about Piloting,” Casse said. “I think he is getting better and better, and he’s trained good. I think this could be a good spot for him. Tapits will get a little better when they are older. He’s definitely got some confidence now.”
Casse said Piloting’s early speed is likely to be on display in the Classic.
“You maybe could [take him back], but I don’t think he would be as effective,” Casse remarked. “He likes to be up close and running and I don’t think we will take that away from him.”
Luca Panici has the assignment from post 6.
Gulfstream Park specialist We’re All Set has also been entered. The 6-year-old has a record of 6-6-6 in 31 starts at this oval, including last June’s Sea of Grass Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong dirt race for Florida-breds.
Starlight Racing’s Uncle Vinny, a 4-year-old son of Uncle Mo, is looking to win his first race since earning the victory in the 2015 Sanford Stakes (G3), via the disqualification of Magna Light for interference. Uncle Vinny has been blanked in eight starts since.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2017 Paulick Report.