And give serious props to Awesome Again? I was thinking about this stuff the other day and figured I just had to write it down before some big-wig elsewhere borrowed my thought process and acted upon it.
I’ve had a soft spot for Adena Springs since I started really following modern horse racing. My visit to Calder spotted me several Adena-sired horses, and I can’t help but respect the people who not only bought for big money, but continued racing my favorite juvie from 2010, Awesome Feather. Adena Springs is a pretty good-sized breeding and racing operation with a little bit of their own rehoming program to boot, standing names like Macho Uno, Einstein, Ghostzapper, and the truly awesome Awesome Again.
This gorgeous bay stallion really doesn’t get the credit he deserves in the era of Bernardini spam, A.P. Indy orgies, and Empire Maker circlejerks (sorry for the graphic choice of words, but really, it fits). Rewinding back to the glory days when he still raced, he won 9 of 12 races with a top Equibase speed rating of 123. He broke his maiden by 6 lengths on his second try at a distance-digging 1 1/16 miles. He won the Queen’s Plate, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the Whitney by daylight. His Classic win was especially memorable, as Awesome came flying from the back of the pack to stay undefeated in 1998 over a top field that included Silver Charm, Victory Gallop, and Skip Away. His racing career ended with a back injury while running fifth in the Super Derby (then a G1 stake).
A lot of excellent racehorses turn out to be not-so-awesome sires, but in this case, it’s where Awesome Again really started humming. After winning in excess of $4.3 million at the races, Awesome Again would spur a legacy of millionaires, G1 winners, and Breeders’ Cup winners, thereby becoming one of those rare, excellent horses that produced even better than himself. In his first crop born in 2000, he caught fire immediately with the impeccably fast Ghostzapper, who won sprints as in the Vosburgh (I) before taking the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) in record time (which still stands!). Hotstufandthensome, Round Pond, Spun Sugar, Awesome Action [CAN], Eishin Newton, Wilko, Awesome Gem, Ginger Punch, and Game On Dude are easy adds to the “most awesome” Awesomes list.
In more recent seasons, unfortunately, the number of big money winners by Awesome Again took a decline with many progeny never even having a start at the track. Rooted at a good $50k per season price, Awesome was little match for the wave of new popular blood (i.e. Unbridled’s Song) that begat fast, precocious talent. Even top broodmares were not spitting out bona fide racers with Awesome Again (see Finder’s Fee [an Acorn Stakes (I) winning daughter of Storm Cat] who has two Awesome Again foals earning less than $100k combined).
However, the future remains bright for Awesome Again as both he and his finest son Ghostzapper are having a breakthrough year with stakes winners and top performers. Fast Falcon looked game enough to win a paltry edition of the Travers (I) and was a close runner-up in the Dwyer (II), but most notably, it is the son Paynter who has shown some of the most promise in a year bloated with excellent sophomores. While he did not start until he was 3 and was slow to progress, Paynter nearly upset the Belmont Stakes (I) in front-running fashion and then capped off a tremendous Haskell (I) to become the early Travers favorite. In a sense, it’s paramount that Paynter survives his current bout of illness to continue to buoy the stud career of his sire. Between Paynter and multi-G1 winner Game On Dude— who looks to be a key favorite in avenging his close Breeders’ Cup Classic loss— 2012 could mean the revival of Awesome Again as a relevant sire should his progeny collect his 5th Breeders’ Cup win in November, an historic 2nd Classic winner by a Classic winner.
Here’s to an awesome fall, Dude.