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Richest Active Racehorse Awesome Gem Runs In Berkeley Handicap Monday
The 9-year-old gelding Awesome Gem, who with more than $2.7 million in earnings is the richest active thoroughbred racehorse in the nation, will try to add to his bankroll Monday at Golden Gate Fields when he competes in the $100,000 Berkeley Handicap.
The Grade 3 Berkeley, a 1 1/16-mile race for older horses, is the seventh race on a nine-race Memorial Day racing program that begins at 1:15 p.m. Gates open at 10 a.m. and fans attending the track with a paid admission will receive a free Golden Gate Fields sports bag.
A free handicapping seminar co-hosted by Tom Quigley of Horseplayer Magazine and Golden Gate Fields track announcer Michael Wrona will be held at 11 a.m. in the Paddock Pub, which is located on the track level near the winner’s circle.
Golden Gate Fields is also hosting a “Family Day” party Monday that will feature free activities for kids, including pony rides, bounce houses and face painters. The party will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at the north end of the track.
Post time for the Berkeley, which attracted a strong cast of eight, is 4:15 p.m. Awesome Gem is the 5-2 morning line favorite and the well-traveled veteran will break from the rail under jockey Aaron Gryder.
Trained throughout his career by Craig Dollase, Awesome Gem broke his maiden in his fourth career start on Sept. 29, 2006, at Santa Anita. A Kentucky-bred son of Awesome Again, Awesome Gem enters the Berkeley with the following record: 49 starts, 10 wins (5 stakes victories), 15 seconds, five thirds, and $2,761,370 in earnings.
“He’s pretty much the same horse as he was when he started,” said Dollase of Awesome Gem, who has averaged 7.8 starts a year. “He’s always been a very willing horse, very spirited. He doesn’t impress you in his (morning) works but he always shows up in the afternoon and that’s what counts. He takes care of himself, that’s why he’s still running at (age) nine and competitively.”
Awesome Gem has run in nine different states (California, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Louisiana, West Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, and Iowa), while competing at 12 U.S. racetracks (Hollywood Park, Del Mar, Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields, Monmouth Park, Emerald Downs, Hawthorne, Fair Grounds, Charles Town, Lone Star, Churchill Downs, and Prairie Meadows).
Awesome Gem’s longest road trip took him across the globe to Hong Kong, where he finished 12th in the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin Racecourse in 2008.
“He’s taken me places I never thought I’d be able to go,” said Dollase. “It’s been an amazing run with this horse. He’s extra special. He’s part of the family. We always look forward to every one of his races.”
Awesome Gem has won five graded stakes, the biggest being the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup in 2010 when he defeated Rail Trip.
“That was the most gratifying (win), the Hollywood Gold Cup,” said Dollase. “It had been kind of a nemesis to me for a number of years. I won the race and got DQ’d and then came back a year later and got beat a nose.”
Dollase’s Futural defeated Aptitude by 1 1/2 lengths in the 2001 Hollywood Gold Cup but was disqualified and placed third for causing interference in the stretch. In the 2002 Gold Cup, Dollase’s Momentum lost a photo finish to Sky Jack.
“That was a very tough beat,” said Dollase. “So to win that race was very gratifying, and to do it with Awesome Gem made it extra special.”
Awesome Gem lost a close one in the 2009 Berkeley when he finished third, beaten a neck for the win, in a three-horse photo finish that was won by Autism Awareness. If he’s going to avenge that loss Monday, Awesome Gem will have to bounce back from his most recent outing when he finished eighth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Meryvn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 5.
Awesome Gem worked five furlongs in :59 1/5 handily four days prior to the Mervyn LeRoy and Dollase thinks the fast move may have taken something out of the old boy.
“He probably worked too good,” said Dollase. “He might have left his race out on the track. We learned a little something about him. We won’t be so aggressive right on top of a race. We’re happy with the spacing for this race.
“Hopefully he rebounds well in this race and moves forward and we’re able to campaign him the rest of the year,” continued Dollase. “If not, that’s OK too. He’s just a special horse.”
The field for the Berkeley Handicap, in post position order with riders, weight assignments and morning-line odds, is as follows: Awesome Gem, Gryder rides at 120 pounds, 5-2; Gallant Son, Russell Baze, 114, 4-1; Hudson Landing, Juan Hernandez, 119, 7-2; Positive Response, Julien Couton, 116, 5-1; Anthony’s Cross, Kerwin John, 115, 6-1; Bonfire Knight, Abel Cedillo, 112, 8-1; Where’s The Remote, Alejandro Gomez, 112, 12-1; and Michael the Man, Frank Alvarado, 111, 15-1.