Awesome GemAwesome Gem (Wikipedia)Saturday’s renewal of the Gr1 Santa Anita Handicap marks only the second time in the last 25 years that the field for the race has reached 14 entries. West Point Thoroughbreds’ Awesome Gem (Awesome Again), eighth in last year’s Big ‘Cap, has been installed the 4-1 morning-line favorite.

The five-year-old gelding won last year’s Gr2 San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes and was second in the Gr1 Pacific Classic and Gr1 Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Stakes before running third in the Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The Craig Dollase trainee was third in his 2008 debut in the Gr2 San Antonio Handicap “I love Awesome Gem,” said Jeff Bloom, West Point’s executive vice president of West Coast Operations. “He goes out there and lays his body down, and hopefully, the San Antonio was a good tightner for him to set up his stretch kick that we know he has, and get that Gr1 win under his belt. He’s definitely come close.” Dollase will also saddle Monterey Jazz (Thunderello), 5-1 on the morning line. The four-year-old won the Gr3 Sir Beaufort Stakes over the turf last December and switched to the main track to win the February 2 Gr2 Strub Stakes last time out. “He’s really improved immensely,” Dollase said. Of his Big ‘Cap duo, Dollase added, “I’m not a very good poker player, but I’ve got a good hand here.”

Trainer Bobby Frankel, who won the Big ‘Cap with Milwaukee Brew in 2002 and 2003, will saddle Champs Elysees (Danehill) Saturday. The five-year-old, winner of the Gr2 San Marcos Stakes, will be making his first start on the main track, but Frankel is not concerned. “He trains good on the synthetic surface,” explained Frankel, “and the way this track is playing, I think he’s got a chance. His full brother is Dansili, one of the leading sires in Europe, and he’s the leading all-weather sire over there.”

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News