Awesome Again Stakes (Grade 1) (BC)- $300.000 Purse
SA- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
September 30, 2023
It’s time for the final “win and you’re in” race for the BC Classic as the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes takes place from SA. A group of eleven horses are looking to either capitalize on this final shot to get into the race, or to cement themselves as one of the top choices for the Classic, which will take place now in just a little over a month right here at SA. Many great horses have been awesome in this race, including Omni and Icicle in the early days, and Whats Up twice. Last year, the winner was Sensei, for Mb Stables, who used the Awesome Again to lead into a fifth-place finish. He’ll be in action on Saturday, but out at AQU for the Woodward. We did initially draw the full field of twelve here, but after an early scratch, we know that there are eleven headed to the starting gate. Let’s take a run through the field now, to meet them!
#1- Walk Naked (Riggins Racing, ridden by P Husbands)- Added to the trainer’s stable in July with an $80.000 claim, and has put together two strong races since. He was not a complete surprise, though, as he has a handful of stake experience which include a string of seconditis around this time last year. It was an optional claimer that he was claimed out of where Seydoux II (running in the Lukas Classic on Saturday) actually got the win. Walk Naked then won the Grade 2 Seagram Cup Stakes, getting revenge on Seydoux II, and then finished fourth in the CT Classic. The prior trainer did get a decent price tag with that claim, but likely regrets trying to sneak him through in it.
#2- Gorogue Laga (Arindel, ridden by L Saez)- After finishing second in the BC Juvenile, Gorogue Laga was talked about for a while as one of the top KYD threats. He justified that by winning a couple preps, then running fifth in the KYD prior to winning the PRK. Of course, we know that the game can catch up to you quickly, and the field may have caught up to him just enough. He has not won since the PRK and was non-competitive in the three races after. That said, we’re talking about the BEL, Dandy, and Travers there. This would be a good spot for Gorogue Laga to remind his rivals that he is still as good as he was at the start of the year.
#3- Ten Nations (Alydar Stables, ridden by Al Perez)- Broke his maiden here in April, so timewise, he is behind several of these. He was moved directly into graded stakes after that win, and with a couple of mid-pack finishes, he showed that he was not over his head. Just two weeks ago, he was at HST, and won the $125.000 BC Derby (Grade 3), and now the trainer makes his bid to get into the Classic. It would take a lot to beat these, and to do it on short rest adds to the challenge.
#4- Stormy Liberal (Big Guns Stables, ridden by M E Smith)- October 2020: the last time that Stormy Liberal went long on the main track, so he is a surprising entry here in the Awesome Again. He’s been very successful sprinting, and has four consecutive triple digit SRF’s, and won the Grade 2 OBrien Stakes at DMR last month. There is an allure to the BC Classic, and that is likely what fuel his entry here, and maybe the trainer saw how Retaliate may own the BC Sprint division right now. I would have loved to see recent mile works on him, and maybe privately, they are incredible. But, without seeing them publicly, I can’t pick him.
#5- Hiei (Fractious, ridden by M Franco)- This one made history in June by winning the BEL after being a non-factor in the KYD. He stayed hot after that by winning the Haskell, and at that time seemed like he would be a great option in the BC Classic. He still is, but his last race will have some concerns that there better not be a raindrop on the track for that day. In the Travers, which was sloppy, he was not only a non-factor, he was downright awful. The previous time he raced on an off track, he also had a bad race Fractious is surely paying attention to the weather, and that 67% chance of rain, as of press time, for the Awesome Again.
#6- All Take (Alydar Stables, ridden by J R Velazquez)- Looking to get back to the BC Classic after running seventh in the race last year, but he has been rather quiet this year. He’s been cashing checks, but when it’s the fourth place cut time and time again, he is not going to feel very productive. Last month, he finally did one better than that by running third in the Grade 1 JC Gold Cup from SAR. So, let’s face it, he’s been a lot better than his stat line will appear from first glance in 2023. He’s lacking that big result, and this is the spot to get it.
#7- Lord Cherokee (Arindel, ridden by R M Hernandez)- At the Big A on the 15th, Lord Cherokee made a lot of jaws drop when he flew around the track in his workout. Will that lead to a masterful performance here? He’s always been good in the morning, but if he’s improved even more, that may be all it takes for him to turn around those near misses at this level into wins. Was a complete dud in the JC Gold Cup last month, and he is facing that type of field again here but was better in the Gold Cup that is awarded here earlier in the year. If Lord Cherokee wins this and backs up that work, then he’s peaking at the right time. But it’s show time.
#8- Home Spirit (Night Rider Stables, ridden by E J Zayas)- Two years ago, Home Spirit took part in the Awesome Again and ended up finishing third but that was not good enough to get him into the BC Classic. Moving forward to this year, we saw the gelding score a massive win in the Pegasus World Cup in January, and then two starts later, win the OP Handicap, and those races combine for $4,000.000 purses. Hasn’t done a lot since, but still earns triple digit SRF’s, so the finishes are a product of the competition he’s facing. Home Spirit simply feels like a horse that belongs in the Classic, doesn’t he?
#9- Prevent (Mb Stables, ridden by P Lopez)- Back in April, he won the SA Derby in just his fifth race and was chosen by Mb Stables to run in the KYD. That says a lot, given the options that Mb has to put in that race. Prevent finished in the middle of the field both there, and in the BEL; then cutting him back to sprints has led to two more mid-pack finishes. He’s worked well coming into this race, not Lord Cherokee well, but looks ready to roll here. You have to perform when you are in this barn, and another middle of the field finish isn’t doing that.
#10- Hard To Forgive (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by J C Ferrer)- When covering the Pacific Classic at the beginning of the month, I tried to forgive this horse for his run of subpar finishes, given the competition level that he was up against, but he did not do anything in the Pacific Classic to justify that. It’s hard to deny now that I’m losing confidence in him, so I am going to be more unforgiving. In fairness, he wasn’t terrible in the Pacific Classic, but he can’t keep getting the competition level pass when he keeps going up against the best that are out there.
#11- Starving Artist- Scratched
#12- Eight West Party (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by T Gaffalione)- Out of his last six races, the veteran five-year-old has a couple of strong races that are highlighted by winning the Grade 2 Suburban at BEL in July. He also ran third on the grass at the Shoemaker Mile here in May. Since then, he’s been in a pair of top-quality races, the Whitney and the Pacific Classic and has finished in the middle of the field. That’s become a bit of theme for these horses on this end of the starting gate, but the Suburban gives me a little more confidence in him that he could bust out and run a big one here. Not picking him but won’t be surprised to report on him winning. If his odds climb, which they could, take a shot.