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Belmont At The Big A Preview | Awad Stakes 2023: Blue Creek Seeking Stakes Triumph
The 2022 Awad Stakes (Sue Kawczynski/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Belmont At The Big A Preview | Awad Stakes 2023: Blue Creek Seeking Stakes Triumph

Upland Flats Racing’s stakes-placed Blue Creek will seek to display his late-running tactics en route to a stakes triumph in Saturday’s 11th edition of the $135,000 Awad for juveniles going 1 1/16 miles over the inner turf at Belmont at the Big A.

The Awad is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 11-race program, which also features the Grade 2, $250,000 Mother Goose and the Grade 2, $300,000 Forty Niner. First post is 12:05 p.m. Eastern.

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The dark bay son of freshman stallion Demarchelier enters from a third-place finish at 22-1 odds in the 1 1/16-mile Laurel Futurity on September 30 over good turf at Laurel Park for trainer Keri Brion. He trailed the 12-horse field by 21 lengths down the backstretch and made a sweeping eight-wide move around the far turn to grab show honors, finishing 5 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Air Recruit.

A second out graduate going one mile on August 19 at Colonial Downs, Blue Creek made his stakes debut at the New Kent, Virginia oval when a troubled 10th in the Kitten’s Joy on September 9.

Brion noted that Blue Creek did not care for the cut in the ground at Laurel last out.

“He didn’t love the turf at Laurel that day either, it was a bit soft,” Brion recalled. “Down the backside, I didn’t think he would go anywhere and then he just came running. He has an interesting running style, that’s for sure. Hopefully, he can get a fast pace in front of him. He’s something else. We kind of tried to get him to lay a little closer in his second start. He just spots the field and comes running when he feels like it. He did close into a very slow pace last time, he was just green up the straight. So, we added cheek pieces and he’ll go in a different bridle. But, that’s the way that he goes.”

Brion said Blue Creek should appreciate added ground looking ahead to next year.

“I think he’s one of these horses that hopefully can compete in these longer turf races, I think he’ll be effective there,” Brion said. “He has a really rapid turn of foot when he gets running, so it really all comes down to getting the right trip. When he ran in the stake at Colonial, he got stuck down on the inside and had no room to go anywhere. At Laurel, he circled eight wide, but he came flying. He’s a tricky horse like that. A bit of racing luck is what we need.”

Blue Creek was a $25,000 acquisition at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale.

“I picked him out at the Timonium sale and we always liked him physically. He’s a beautiful animal that’s very well conformed,” Brion said. “He’s one of those horses that was all there, we were just waiting for the pieces to really click. I think he’s getting better, even with the way he works in the morning and the way he does things. He ran well first out, but he needed that race. Then he put it altogether to win. I knew the stake at Colonial wasn’t an accurate depiction of him and sure enough, he came back at Laurel and proved he belongs with a group like that.”

Bred in Kentucky by Jay Goodwin, Cloyce C. Clark Jr., Andrew Cary and MK Thoroughbreds, Blue Creek is out of the Street Boss mare Grandma Fran, whose dam November is a half-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire The Cliff’s Edge.

Forest Boyce will ship in to ride Blue Creek from post 4.

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Trainer Jonathan Thomas will send out Augustin Stables’ Kentucky homebred Twirling Point [post 5], who showed vast improvement second time out with a frontrunning maiden score on October 8 over Woodbine Racetrack’s all-weather surface.

On debut, the dark bay son of Twirling Candy was a distant 10th and never a factor as the lukewarm favorite on September 2 at Kentucky Downs – a race won by next-out graded stakes winner Can Group. Twirling Point made amends from the lackluster effort next out, making every pole a winning one en route to a commanding 3 1/4-length score going a two-turn 1 1/16 miles under returning rider Javier Castellano. The win garnered a 71 Beyer Speed Figure.

“Everything went wrong at Kentucky Downs, but he came back and trained well. I thought he ran really well up at Woodbine with Javier,” Thomas said. “Obviously it was on the all-weather, but I would have to hope that he would be able to replicate that kind of form on turf.”

Thomas said the two-turn experience will be of benefit.

“It’s nice to already have that experience under his belt,” Thomas said. “He’s got a tactical approach to his races, but without being a need-the-lead type of horse. I would have to think that being forwardly placed is certainly within his wheelhouse.”

Twirling Point, a second generation homebred, is out of the multiple graded stakes winning and Grade 1-placed Kitten’s Joy mare Kitten’s Point.

Trainer Christophe Clement will saddle dual graded stakes-placed maiden Spirit Prince [post 8, Dylan Davis] in pursuit of his third Awad score.

After finishing a close second to next-out stakes winner Noted on debut in July at Saratoga Race Course, the Cairo Prince gray returned to the Spa when third in the Grade 3 With Anticipation one month later. There, he saved ground from fourth along the hedge down the backstretch before tipping out around the far turn and came with a strong rally, but was unable to stave off the outside rallies of one-two finishers Gala Brand and Carson’s Run. Spirit Prince enters from a third-place effort in the Grade 2 Pilgrim on October 4 at Belmont at the Big A, where he earned a career-high 73 Beyer.

Spirit Prince is owned by Oakwood Stables, Scott D. Krase, Donarra Thoroughbreds, Kenneth G. Beitz and Gail P. Beitz.

Completing the field are maiden winners Tropandhagen [post 2, Tyler Conner] for trainer Dimitrios Synnefias and the George Weaver-trained New York-bred Dancing Mischief [post 6, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], as well as maidens Innate [post 1, Kendrick Carmouche] for trainer Phil Antonacci, Move to Gold [post 3, Manny Franco] for trainer Chad Brown, and British Sea [post 7, Ruben Silvera] for trainer Mike Maker.