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By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

ARCADIA, Calif. – There are phone calls to owners that trainers dread making. They know that conveying bad news goes with their job description, but that does not make it any easier.

Trainer Chad Brown reached for the phone with trepidation not long after owner Frank Stronach purchased Awesome Feather for $2.3 million at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton November sale and sent her to his barn. Stronach thought she was on the threshold of a magnificent 3-year-old campaign after she swept her first six starts, culminating in a rousing 2 ¼-length triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs.

There was no way for Brown to couch the very bad news he had for Stronach, so he just came out with it. Not long after she exited the auction ring, his very expensive purchase was found to be lame with a bowed tendon. If the daughter of Awesome of Course was to flash her tremendous turn of foot again, it would not be any time soon.

Brown expected that he would have to search for the right words to calm Stronach. Instead, the unflappable veteran of racing consoled him. “Hold it. That’s the game,” he remembered Stronach telling him. “Don’t look back. Just look forward.”

Not that it was easy, but Brown and his staff stayed true to that, following a circuitous path that finally led to the undefeated filly emerging as a top contender, at 3-1, for the competitive Breeders Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) on Friday at Santa Anita Park.

They gave Awesome Feather all the time she needed last season before she finally returned to the races on Oct. 5 to win a minor stakes race at Belmont Park by two lengths for regular rider Jeffrey Sanchez. She showed she still had Grade 1 ability with a 5 ¼-length romp in the Gazelle Stakes (G1) in late November 2011 at Aqueduct.  

This year has brought two widely spaced starts. She powered to victory by 5 ¾ lengths in the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park at the end of January. Sanchez never budged on her as she roared off by 11 ¼ lengths in the one-mile Nasty Storm Stakes at Belmont on Sept. 20.

Brown treats her with tender loving care – and then some.

“If she shows any hint of lameness or soreness, we stop,” he said.

He has learned to read her body language, knowing that will never mislead him.

“She has her own way around her that allows her to take good care of herself,” said the rapidly rising young trainer.

Awesome Feather has been acting as if she is ready to reward the extreme patience of her handlers. She turned in a bullet workout (the fastest at the distance) on Oct. 7 at Belmont Park, zipping four furlongs in :47.60 seconds. In her last drill before shipping to Santa Anita, she covered four furlongs in :48.40 seconds, ninth of 52 workouts at the distance that morning.

Although Awesome Feather’s record shows a perfect 10, she will probably need the performance of a lifetime to remain undefeated. Royal Delta, the 9-5 favorite, looks to be every bit as good as she was when she took the Ladies’ Classic last year. My Miss Aurelia, at 4-1, has done nothing wrong through six starts, including a victory by a determined head against fellow Ladies’ Classic starter Questing in the Cotillion Stakes (G2) in the most recent race for both of them.

“It’s arguably the best Ladies’ Classic assembled in my mind,” Brown said. “We’re just fortunate to be part of it.”

Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) Nov. 2 7:30 PM EDT







Grace Hall 

Javier Castellano

Anthony W. Dutrow 



My Miss Aurelia 

Corey Nakatani

Steven M. Asmussen 



Class Included 

Russell Baze

Jim Penney 




Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Kiaran P. McLaughlin 



Awesome Feather 

Jeffrey Sanchez

Chad C. Brown 



Royal Delta 

Mike Smith

William I. Mott 



Include Me Out 

Joe Talamo

Ronald W. Ellis 



Love and Pride 

John Velazquez

Todd A. Pletcher 




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