Runnymede Farm-bred, -raised and -sold Awesome Gem—the epitome of a game, sound and versatile racehorse—moved into very elite company with his stirring come-from-behind victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) on July 10.
The winner’s prize of $300,000 elevated Awesome Gem’s career earnings to $2,274,682, making him one of the most successful runners in Runnymede’s storied history. He also became the latest Grade 1 winner to be raised on the fields of Kentucky’s oldest continually operated Thoroughbred nursery.
“He was one of our star yearlings in 2004,” recalled Runnymede Vice President and General Manager Martin O’Dowd of the chestnut son of Awesome Again out of the Pentelicus mare Piano.
“He ticked all the boxes for the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale—he had perfect conformation, he was very athletic with a classic pedigree and he had good presale X-rays and scope. But much to our dismay, vets at the sale rejected him for questions they raised about his scope and hence he sold for just $150,000.”
Eventually purchased as a juvenile by West Point Thoroughbreds, one of the most successful racing partnership operations in North America, Awesome Gem has gone on to earn more money than any other runner for the stable, which has raced five other Grade 1 winners.
“This horse has taken us all over the country and run in some of this sport's best races,” West Point praised on its website while indicating that Awesome Gem could run next in the $1-million Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) at Del Mar on August 28. The gelding also could make his fourth consecutive start in the Breeders’ Cup, which will be run at Churchill Downs this fall.
Trainer Craig Dollase said Awesome Gem is just finding his best stride, albeit at age seven and in a career that already has seen him run with America's most accomplished horses in training . Awesome Gem has now won or placed in 15 graded races.
“He is like fine wine—he gets better with age,” Dollase said after the Hollywood Gold Cup. “He has been a tremendous horse for us over the years and he deserves this win. He never stops trying and can run over anything—synthetic, grass, mud, you name it. He’s very versatile and a real pleasure to train. This win means a lot.”
Jockey David Flores, who saved ground in the Hollywood Gold Cup by keeping Awesome Gem on the rail while also staying closer to the pace than usual, said the gelding gave him a powerful burst of speed to defeat favored Rail Trip, winner of the race last year, and another Grade 1 winner, Richard’s Kid.
“That was the most beautiful thing, when you have a horse that can accelerate like that at any time,” Flores said of Awesome Gem’s run.
Bred by Runnymede in partnership with farm Chairman Catesby Clay and longtime associate Peter Callahan, Awesome Gem has become another outstanding model of the farm’s breeding program with Callahan. The partnership also bred Japanese champion Agnes Digital, an international Group 1 winner who earned more than $8-million.
“Awesome Gem is the latest Runnymede/Callahan poster boy, the essence of soundness and durability while performing at the highest level for five consecutive years,” O’Dowd said.
The Hollywood Gold Cup marked Awesome Gem’s 13th start in a Grade or Group 1 race and he has placed in four of those events, including his fine third-place effort to Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).