Last year Awesome Gent was known for little more than being the stable mate of Todd Pletcher’s dominant two year old sprinter Sudden Surprise. This year the roles could be reversed and Sudden Surprise could play second fiddle to Awesome Gent. Awesome Gent made it three wins in a row on Sunday taking the $125,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct by four lengths.
Jockey Manny Franco positioned Awesome Gent right behind pace setters Sudden Surprise and Moon Over A Beauty. While the two lead horses battled it out, Franco kept Awesome Gent ‘bottled up’ until the quarter pole. The then gave Awesome Gent the sign and he went to work: “When I saw the two horses [Moon Over a Beauty and Sudden Surprise] fighting on the lead, I decided to sit [behind] and wait until the quarter-pole to make my move. He responded really good. He’s a nice horse and he has speed too. I think [he could go longer], Todd has done such a good job with him.” Franco continued to say that once Awesome Gent took off he didn’t have to do much: “Right on the turn he jumped to the lead and he wanted to go. I just sat on him because I knew I had horse and I wait a little bit. When I move, he gave me a kick.”
Todd Pletcher’s assistant, Byron Hughes, gave much of the credit to jockey Franco: “I thought Manny did a great job. He broke sharp, sat outside the pace and took over the top of stretch and drew off. It was very impressive. He’s been here all winter long and it’s been great to have him in the barn. Hopefully his success over the inner continues to the outer track.”
Quijote shipped in from Louisiana to finish second Third place went to King Kranz, who closed strong coming from last place. Condo King finished fourth after a bad route and Moon Over a Beauty and the Sudden Surprise rounded out the field. Awesome Gent was the fourth choice among the betting public and paid $9.40, $4.70 and $3.40. Quijote paid $4.20 and $2.90. King Kranz paid $3.40 to show.