Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Age Before Beauty: Awesome Gem, Royal Delta and Summer Soiree

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 22, 2011

Awesome Gem is proving a very rare commodity in thoroughbred horse racing, showing that great things are worth waiting for. In Sunday’s Longacres Mile Handicap (gr.3) at Emerald Downs, Awesome Gem notched his second Grade 3 victory of the year when he ran down the undefeated Noosa Beach for an handy 1 ½ length victory. The 8-year-old gelding was entering off a disappointing 5th place finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap but turned things around in a big way with his easy victory. With 45 career starts on his resume, and two wins in his last four starts, Awesome Gem is the model of consistency, durability and class in the modern thoroughbred, and is proving that a competitive career can span more than just two racing seasons.

Already having competed in four Breeders’ Cups, beginning in 2007, Awesome Gem could be headed for a fifth attempt this year. Virtually all options are open to the extremely versatile son of Awesome Again as he has competed in two Breeders’ Cup Classics, the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and the Breeders’ Cup Marathon last year. I count myself as a big fan of Awesome Gem and will be rooting for him to continue making it big the remainder of his memorable career.


Royal Delta faced a very strong field in the Alabama Stakes on Saturday, and absolutely throttled her competition with remarkable ease. Breaking from post position number one, Royal Delta got off to a perfect start, out-breaking Plum Pretty, but eased up a bit by jockey Jose Lezcano to rate just behind that one. Sitting in third for most of the race behind the Kentucky Oaks winner, and dual Grade 1 winner It’s Tricky, Royal Delta rated patiently for Lezcano down the backstretch as longshot Pinch Pie ran half a length clear of St. John’s River with Inglorious a length behind in last. Entering the far turn It’s Tricky began to ramp up the pressure, ranging up on the outside of Plum Pretty entering the stretch as Royal Delta began her move. Into the turn it looked like a replay of the Coaching Club American Oaks was about to get under way with Plum Pretty and It’s Tricky battling it out on the front end, just noses apart. Royal Delta came driving off the turn, two lengths behind the top pair and swung into the clear by Lezcano. Far back Inglorious had dropped more than ten lengths behind.

Midway down the stretch Royal Delta inched up to It’s Tricky, brushing lightly with her opponent and then exploded to the lead, opening up by more than 5 lengths as she flashed under the line. It’s Tricky got up for second, 1 length ahead of Pinch Pie with Plum Pretty another 3 lengths back in fourth. St. John’s River never showed her late running drive and finished 5 lengths behind Plum Pretty. Inglorious never threatened, finished last, more than 20 lengths in back of St. John’s River.

In my Alabama post last weekend I noted that Royal Delta always seems to run big in her second race off a break and she certainly did. It makes you wonder what would have happened in the Mother Goose if she hadn’t missed the race with a foot bruise. She looks much the best right now and has certainly thrown her shoe in the ring for divisional honors. All she needs is a few more big wins in graded stakes and she’s in. It always sounds easy, but if this filly competes the rest of the year with no adverse effects of injuries I think it’s very possible.


Summer Soiree turned in a huge performance on the Del Mar turf Saturday, going almost gate-to-wire in the Del Mar Oaks, for her second consecutive graded stakes win, and third of the year overall. Bolting from post position three like a filly possessed, Summer Soiree took command of the field moving into the first turn and was quickly joined on the outside by Nereid and Dynamo. Going past the stands for the first time Dynamo took the lead from Summer Soiree, going through an opening quarter in :23.14 and taken a hold of by jockey Joel Rosario. Entering the backstretch Summer Soiree switched to the outside, just three parts of a length behind in second. With the final turn still to come, Summer Soiree suddenly pulled to the lead, under a strangled hold from Gabriel Saez. Nereid sat more than four lengths back in third as Cambina  raced far back, second last. Entering the far turn Summer Soiree continued to blaze the way and quickly opened up by ten lengths. Blazing off the turn the War Front filly poured it on for all she was worth, Star Billing and Nereid both storming closer with every stride. From the back of the pack Cambina exploded with a spectacular closing rally, closing in on the leaders with quick, determined strides. Approaching the wire Summer Soiree’s lead began to diminish, from four lengths down to two. With a final desperate effort, Summer Soiree managed to hold off the charging cavalry for a thrilling half length win over Star Billing. Nereid finished a nose back in second with Cambina coming up 2 lengths short in her rally.

The 1 1/8 mile Del Mar Oaks was Summer Soiree’s first Grade 1 win and fourth win in five starts this year. Where she goes next is undecided but she has proven an extremely brilliant runner with dominant victories on dirt, synthetic and now turf. She appears best suited to races no longer than 1 1/16 miles where he incredible turn of foot propels her to huge margins of victory and could be a strong contender for either the Filly and Mare Sprint or Turf Sprint at the Breeders’ Cup this fall.


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