Awesome Gems Wins Berkeley (G3) Via DQ
Our veteran campaigner Awesome Gem has practically seen it all in 50 starts over the course of a 7-year racing career, but added a new accomplishment to his resume Monday in the $100,000 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields - winning on a disqualification for the first time.
The Grade 3 event was technically taken by Positive Response, who finished ¾-lengths in front of Gem after going 1 1/16-miles mostly just behind an easy pace set by Michael the Man; early splits of 25.23 seconds, 50.78, and 1:15.09.
But Positive Response drifted in twice while taking charge coming down the stretch, causing a chain reaction that resulted in his disqualification to fourth for interference. Meanwhile, Awesome Gem was able to avoid the melee from his typical position behind the pack. In the early going he was last in a field of eight, trailing by eight lengths after six furlongs.
Jockey Aaron Gryder did an excellent job saving ground and getting Gem into full stride, then shifting to the outside to avoid traffic trouble. Final time for the distance was 1:45.82.
Says Terry Finley, “I must tell you I thought we were in trouble down the backside after he was boxed in. Some people may knock Aaron’s ride, but there’s not much you can do when stuck against the rail like that. One thing I’ve learned is that most of the time good horses still find a way to get through even if they aren’t in the best position early.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of Awesome Gem", continued Terry. "At nine-years-old he still loves his job and looks fantastic. Craig and his team have done an amazing job with him, and I thank all the Partners for their support. Gem is the horse of a lifetime.”
“The pace was slow but I didn’t want to take him out of his game,” Gryder told the Daily Racing Form. “Rather than jam him up there, I decided to let him get into his stride and save ground. The pace was a lot to overcome but he’s a very classy horse and showed it today. There was a lot of bumping and squeezing going on in front of me in the stretch but we were able to avoid it.”
Our 9-year-old son of Awesome Again finished full of run and improved his record to 11-15-5 from 50 starts with earnings of $2,821,370. This was his second win in three starts in 2012. He has finished in the top four in 23rd graded stakes races since beginning his career in 2006.
“He made his run but came up a little short,” trainer Craig Dollase told the Form. “For him to close off those slow fractions and get up for second was incredible. But he’s an incredible horse.”
It’s likely Awesome Gem will head to Iowa to compete in the $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap (G3) on June 30th at Prairie Meadows. A win there pushes him past the $3 million mark.