Van Vranken Racing and NRB Racing Stable's AWESOME DEBATE relished the muddy going on Thursday's $100K Union Avenue Handicap, charging for the lead and drawing clear to win under the line by almost five lengths.
Sent off at odds of $3.30-to-win, and ridden by Luis Saez, AWESOME DEBATE broke the fastest out of the gate, but conceded the lead to speedy favorite SADIE LADY, who zipped through opening quarters in 21.91 and 44.98. Through the backstretch, AWESOME DEBATE had to be pushed along to keep within striking range.
"The plan was to be right there and to not let them breathe too much, and everything worked out pretty well," winning jockey Luis Saez said. "This filly, I love her. I rode her [before] and I knew she'd have that quick turn-of-foot at the top of the stretch. She did it perfectly."
Turning for home, AWESOME DEBATE meant business. The gray filly strengthened her bid for the lead and gobbled up ground to seize it by the top of the stretch. SADIE LADY tried to match strides to no avail, while the other rivals were no longer of any consequence. AWESOME DEBATE kept grinding away from the middle of track and went on to score by almost five lengths.
IRISH CONSTITUTION made up good ground to get up for second, HANNAH DANCES, after a stumbling and enduring bumping, ran bravely to get up for third. The final time for the six and one-half furlongs over the slop was 1:17.48.
Winning trainer Bruce Brown was thrilled by his filly's performance and felt a certain consolation. In her previous race, she broke in the air and stumbled.
"That was just a total mess. Afterwards, I really felt bad about how everything went up there but if she had run hard that day, maybe she wouldn't have ran as well today," Brown said. "Things have a way [of working out]. In the moment, I was very upset, but this makes it better."
AWESOME DEBATE paid $8.60 to win, $4.00 to place. She is by HONORABLE DILLON out of HEALTHY DEBATE by FREUD. She improves her record to 8 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third from 16 total tries, and pushes her earnings to $322,577. She's a perfect 2-for-2 at Saratoga.
Brown had high praise to offer Luis Saez after the race.
"He[Saez] had it in mind to really be aggressive and not let that horse get a loose lead. She broke like she did the day we claimed her," Brown said. "She broke in front and then that horse went to the lead. I think Luis knew that filly had to run to get there. I just didn't want that other horse falling out on the lead and having nobody press her."
"The rain, I didn't mind at all. When we claimed her, she ran good in the slop, so I was happy with the surface," Brown added. "The main thing was we didn't want to let the favorite get loose on the lead, so Luis did a good job and stayed right there. She had some run in her the last part and drew away. It worked out well."
Sources: Equibase, NYRA Press
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