2022 Matriarch S.
December 4th, 2022

2022 Awesome Again Stakes Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses | America's Best Racing

2022 Awesome Again Stakes Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

Racing
Country Grammer, left, and Royal Ship, right, are two of the expected contenders for the 2022 Awesome Again Stakes Oct. 1 at Santa Anita Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes is the marquee race of opening weekend of the 2022 fall meet at Santa Anita Park, with the Grade 1 race Oct. 1 providing the winner with a fees-paid berth in the $6 million Longines’ Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5 via the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” series. Santa Anita will offer an action-packed weekend of racing with 10 stakes races over two days on Oct. 1-2 at the picturesque Arcadia, Calif. track.

Previously called the Goodwood Stakes, the race was renamed in 2012 in honor of 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again. The race is well-established as a major steppingstone to the Classic with Tiznow (2000), Pleasantly Perfect (2003), Mucho Macho Man (2013), and Accelerate (2018) sweeping both races since the start of 2000.

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The 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again Stakes features a talented group of eight contenders. This Cheat Sheet will be updated in the coming days with the  morning-line odds once available. Read on to learn more about the eight racehorses entered for the 2022 Awesome Again Stakes.


BENOIT photo

1. Azul Coast

Jockey: Hector Berrios

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman

Career record: 11 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $225,280    

Earnings per start: $20,480

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 112

Pedigree: Super Saver - Sky Treasure, by Sky Mesa

Age: 5

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Azul Coast has not raced in nine months but has worked steadily toward his 5-year-old bow for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Unplaced in last year’s Awesome Again, he bounced back in his subsequent start by winning the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes Nov. 20, 2021, at Del Mar, but Azul Coast came up empty in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes Dec. 26 at Santa Anita when fifth, beaten by six lengths. One thing that jumps out from his career record is that he has run very well at Del Mar but not nearly as well on the main track at Santa Anita, on which he has just one second-place finish from five races. He’s fast enough to be competitive against this quality of competition but given the long layoff and his lack of success at Santa Anita, Azul Coast looks like he’s up against it in the Awesome Again. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won this race seven times, including three of the last five editions: Silver Charm (1998), Richard’s Kid (2010), Game On Dude (2011, 2012), Mubtaahij (2017), Improbable (2020), and Medina Spirit (2021).

Bet Azul Coast in the Awesome Again 


Eclipse Sportswire

2. Royal Ship

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Owner: Fox Hill Farms and Siena Farm

Career record: 19 starts – 8 wins – 2 seconds – 5 thirds

Career earnings: $690,405

Earnings per start: $36,337

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Midshipman - Bela Val, by Val Royal

Age: 6

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Royal Ship has defeated Country Grammer twice, including once on this main track at this 1 1/8-mile distance in the 2021 Californian Stakes. He’s also finished behind his familiar rival on several occasions, including most recently when a distant third in the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes. Like Country Grammer, he’s run very well on this track with two wins, one second, and one third in four starts on the dirt at Santa Anita, including a pair of 110 Equibase Speed Figures, his career best. There really is not much separating the top group of horses for this year’s race, and with an “A” race, Royal Ship is absolutely capable of earning his first Grade 1 win in the United States (he is a top-level winner in his native Brazil). Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella has won this race four times previously with Soul of the Matter (1995), Pleasantly Perfect (2002, 2003), and Rock Hard Ten (2005). Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith won the Awesome Again in 2007 with Tiago and in 2014 aboard Shared Belief.

Bet Royal Ship in the Awesome Again 


BENOIT photo

3. High Connection

Jockey: Abel Cedillo

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Prince Sultan Bin Mishal Al Saud

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $174,000    

Earnings per start: $34,800

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Connect - Forest Legend, by Forest Camp

Age: 3

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has an interesting 3-year-old on the rise who profiles as a bit of a wild card in the Awesome Again. Never worse than second in five starts, he won the Los Alamitos Derby in July before finishing second by a nose as the 9-10 favorite in the Shared Belief Stakes Sept. 3 at Del Mar. He’s finished second in both of his starts on this main track at Santa Anita and his career-best 108 Equibase Speed Figure is competitive with this group, but this is a tough spot for his first assignment against older horses. Like many horses from this barn, High Connection has tactical speed that suggests he should be involved in the early pace and if he is in the hunt in early stretch, High Connection could hold on for a minor share. Baffert has won this race seven times, including three of the last five editions: Silver Charm (1998), Richard’s Kid (2010), Game On Dude (2011, 2012), Mubtaahij (2017), Improbable (2020), and Medina Spirit (2021). Jockey Abel Cedillo won the Awesome Again in 2019 aboard Mongolian Groom.

Bet High Connection in the Awesome Again 


Eclipse Sportswire

4. Country Grammer

Jockey: Juan Hernandez

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: Commonwealth Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm, and Zedan Racing Stables

Career record: 12 starts – 4 wins – 4 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $11,097,320

Earnings per start: $924,777

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Tonalist - Arabian Song, by Forestry

Age: 5

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: He earned a career-defining victory in the $12 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline March 26 at Meydan and has not finished worse than second in 2022 while competing in three Group/Grade 1 races and one Grade 2 race. Enters off a distant runner-up finish, beaten by 19 ¼ lengths, to superstar Flightline in the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes Sept. 3, but he was seven lengths clear of the third-place finisher. He ran the two fastest stateside races (110 Equibase Speed Figure) of his career on this main track, including one at this 1 1/8-mile distance, so he should be a top win candidate who vies for favoritism in the Awesome Again. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won this race seven times, including three of the last five editions: Silver Charm (1998), Richard’s Kid (2010), Game On Dude (2011, 2012), Mubtaahij (2017), Improbable (2020), and Medina Spirit (2021). Part-owner WinStar Farm raced 2008 Awesome Again winner Well Armed and was a co-owner of 2020 victor Improbable; co-owner Zedan Racing Stables won in 2021 with Medina Spirit.

Bet Country Grammer in the Awesome Again 


Eclipse Sportswire

5. Tripoli

Jockey: Ramon Vazquez

Trainer: John Sadler

Owner: Hronis Racing

Career record: 18 starts – 4 wins – 3 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $896,460

Earnings per start: $49,803

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 111

Pedigree: Kitten's Joy - Love Train, by Tapit

Age: 5

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Owner Hronis Racing is seeking its third Awesome Again win in the last five years after taking the 2018 edition with Accelerate and the 2019 renewal with Mongolian Groom. This looks like a tall task, however, for Tripoli, who has not won or placed in four starts since a 1 ¼-length victory last August in the 2021 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes. Last season, he was in fine fettle heading into the Awesome Again and finished fourth, beaten by 8 ¼ lengths, and he has not regained his best form in three races to date in 2022. He’s fast enough to win this race at his best, but it would take a major turnaround for that to happen and the best-case scenario feels like a sustained rally to fill out the trifecta or superfecta. Trainer John Sadler won the Awesome Again in 2018 with Accelerate, who followed with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic en route to an Eclipse Award as champion older dirt male.

Bet Tripoli in the Awesome Again 


Eclipse Sportswire

6. Defunded

Jockey: Edwin Maldonado

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owner: Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman

Career record: 11 starts – 3 wins – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $338,100

Earnings per start: $30,736

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: Dialed In - Wind Caper, by Touch Gold

Age: 4

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Trainer Bob Baffert had a number of quality options for this race, so by sending Defunded out to compete it seems safe to reason that he likes his chances ti run well. While still in search of his first career stakes win, Defunded ran second by a length in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup Stakes on this main track at Santa Anita May 30 and has been knocking on the door with three runner-up finishes in graded stakes. Still, it's tough to look past back-to-back unplaced finishes in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap July 20 and Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes Aug. 27, both times beaten by 6 ¾ lengths or more, and see a clear path to the winner’s circle against this group. He should be part of the pace scenario and could stick around late for a minor share with a big effort. Hall of Famer Baffert has won this race seven times, including three of the last five editions: Silver Charm (1998), Richard’s Kid (2010), Game On Dude (2011, 2012), Mubtaahij (2017), Improbable (2020), and Medina Spirit (2021).

Bet Defunded in the Awesome Again 


Eclipse Sportswire

7. Express Train

Jockey: Victor Espinoza

Trainer: John Shirreffs

Owner: C R K Stable

Career record: 19 starts – 7 wins – 5 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $1,425,800

Earnings per start: $75,042

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Union Rags - I'm a Flake, by Mineshaft

Age: 5

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Express Train was unplaced as a 2-year-old in his first race on the main track at Santa Anita, but since then has shown an affinity for the surface with four wins, four seconds, and two thirds in 10 subsequent races. He put together a nice three race winning streak last winter that was capped by a head victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap Presented by Yaamava' Resort & Casino on March 5. Following a runner-up finish as the 2-5 chalk in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes in April, Express Train was given a rest by trainer John Shirreffs. Express Train was one of several in this field soundly defeated by Flightline in the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes Sept. 3, but he is eligible to improve in his second race after a four-month layoff. We should see a better version of Express Train in the Awesome Again than we saw in the TVG Pacific Class Stakes and with his career consistency, he is a competitor you must consider on all exacta and trifecta tickets. Trainer John Shirreffs won this race when it was called the Goodwood in 1994 with Bertrando and in 2007 with Tiago; Victor Espinoza guided California Chrome to victory in the 2016 Awesome Again Stakes.

Bet Express Train in the Awesome Again 


Eclipse Sportswire

8. Slow Down Andy

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

Trainer: Doug O'Neill

Owner: Reddam Racing LLC

Career record: 8 starts – 4 wins – 3 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $783,100    

Earnings per start: $97,888

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Pedigree: Nyquist - Edwina E, by Square Eddie

Age: 3

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A consistent racehorse who has only finished outside the top two once in eight career starts, 3-year-old Slow Down Andy is taking on older horses for the first time in his career in the Awesome Again Stakes. He made his last start on grass as he led from start to finish in winning the Grade 2 Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby on Sept 3, but he has won graded stakes on dirt in each of his two seasons on the racetrack. Slow Down Andy won the $500,000 Sunland Park Derby in March and subsequently ran second in both the Los Alamitos Derby in July and the Real Good Deal Stakes in August at Del Mar before switching to turf to get back to the winner’s circle in the Del Mar Derby. On paper, Slow Down Andy would need to improve his Equibase Speed Figure by seven to 10 points to be a win candidate, but 3-year-olds can make significant strides in the fall. He also has run well at this distance and has the tactical speed to be well-positioned early with a big shot at the top of the stretch. An intriguing longshot candidate for trainer Doug O’Neill, who won this race in 2006 with Lava Man when it was called the Goodwood.

Bet Slow Down Andy in the Awesome Again 


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