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Awesome Maria and It’s Tricky to Clash in Ogden Phipps

awesome maria

Awesome Maria and It’s Tricky will put their undefeated 2012 records on the line Monday when they meet for the first time in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park.

The 1 1/16th-mile Ogden Phipps will be run as race 8 on the 11-race holiday card, which also features the Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point for 3-year-old turf fillies, and the highlight of the afternoon, the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap.

Awesome Maria carries a six-race winning streak into the Ogden Phipps, including a victory in last year’s running. Subsequently sidelined by injury, the 5-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon returned to the races in impressive fashion this winter at Gulfstream Park, where she posted victories in the Sabin Stakes (G3) and the Rampart Stakes (G3).

“She was dominant down at Gulfstream this winter, and dominant last year before she was unlucky enough to get hurt,” said Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “This race has been a target for us all along. Whoever wins this race will have a head start in the championship picture.”

The 4-5 favorite in the field of five, the front-running Awesome Maria will tote high weight of 124 pounds, including John Velazquez, as she leaves from post position 2.

A dual Grade 1 winner last year, the 4-year-old It’s Tricky was impressive in her two starts this year at Aqueduct Racetrack, taking the Grade 2 Top Flight by 2 ¾ lengths on March 3 and the Grade 2 Distaff by 3 ½ lengths on April 14. The Mineshaft filly has been first or second in all but one of her 11 starts, including victories in the Grade 1 TVG Acorn at Belmont and the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course.

“She’s doing great,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin of It’s Tricky, who carries the colors of Godolphin Racing. “We have a lot of respect for Awesome Maria and her connections. It’s going to be a tough race. But if one of these two wins it, they’re going to be three-for-three this year.”

The speedy It’s Tricky, who will carry 122 pounds, including Eddie Castro, was listed as the 2-1 second choice in the Ogden Phipps, for which she drew post position No. 4.

–NYRA Press contributed to this report.

Awesome Maria/Coglianese photo