Awesome Gem Still Shining Bright

He may not be awesome, but he’s definitely a gem. Although Awesome Gem has won only six of 35 starts in his career and was winless in 2008 and is winless this year, he has compiled a record that should make him one of the most endearing horses in the country.

It’s difficult not to root for a horse who has given his all for so long over so many different surfaces, and fails to make some kind of an impact only when the pace fails to set up for his late-closing style of running.

But you can bet very few people are going to pick him in Saturday’s Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), as he faces one of racing’s fastest rising stars, Rail Trip, winner of last year’s Hollywood Gold Cup and this year’s Mervyn Leroy Handicap (gr. II) and Californian Stakes (gr. II), as well as last year’s Pacific Classic (gr. I) winner Richard’s Kid, and the speedy Compari, winner of six in a row before finishing a troubled seventh in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. I).

But one of these days, Awesome Gem is going to have everything fall his way and land his first grade I stakes victory. He has come close, having been beaten a nose in the 2007 Goodwood (gr. I), a half-length in the 2007 Pacific Classic, and one length in the 2009 Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT).

But whether he ever gets that elusive grade I score, you can’t help but admire him for what he has accomplished in this multi-surface age of racing.

The son of Awesome Again has finished first, second, or third at 10 different racetracks in seven different states – Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar, Golden Gate (California), Monmouth Park (New Jersey), Fair Grounds (Louisiana), Lone Star (Texas), Charles Town (West Virginia), Hawthorne (Illinois), and Emerald Downs (Washington).

He also has finished first, second, or third on fast, sloppy, and muddy dirt tracks, turf, Pro-Ride, Cushion Track, Polytrack, and Tapeta, at distances ranging from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. With all the traveling around the country (and once to Hong Kong), often meeting top-class horses, he has maintained a 66% in-the-money ratio.

Even in several of his out-of-the-money performances, he was beaten only 4 1/4 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), 3 3/4 lengths in the Pacific Classic, 4 3/4 lengths in another Pacific Classic, 5 1/4 lengths in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), 3 1/2 lengths in the Strub Stakes (gr. II), 3 1/2 lengths in the Frank Kilroe Mile (gr. IT), 1 1/2 lengths in the Californian Stakes, and 1 1/4 lengths in the Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT)

In addition to winning the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) and Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), he has placed in the grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pacific Classic, Goodwood, and Eddie Read, as well as seven other graded stakes.

In short, this is a horse who tries, regardless of the surface or the distance, whether he’s racing on the West Coast or East Coast, Midwest or South. Horses like this no longer are common in today’s conservative racing world where horses are raced sparingly and specialize in one surface. Awesome Gem is not going to win any Eclipse Awards, but he should win the admiration of racing fans across the country.
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