The post below first appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.
With her victory in the Grade 1 Gazelle at Aqueduct racetrack on Saturday, champion Awesome Feather came home a winner for the eighth time in as many starts. A filly of considerable elegance and quality, Awesome Feather was voted last season’s Eclipse Award winner as the top juvenile filly when unbeaten in six starts.
Shortly after her victory in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs, the bay filly was sold at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale for $2.3 million to Frank Stronach, who stands the filly’s grandsire, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, at Adena Springs in Kentucky.
Now Stronach’s patience with his prize acquisition has paid off with a G1 victory that suggests Awesome Feather will be a heavyweight among the older fillies in the coming months. And there is every indication that Awesome Feather will continue to race and to captivate fans, which is a lovely, old-fashioned thing for a racehorse to do.
This filly, a champion at 2 and G1 winner at 3, has a career that is markedly similar to that of her great-granddam Quill (by Princequillo). A homebred who raced for Reginald Webster and who was the champion 2-year-old filly of 1958, Quill won six of her starts at 2, like her famous descendant, but was not undefeated. She also finished third in the Spinaway and Schuylerville, but the filly’s victories included the Matron at Belmont and the Gardenia. The latter stakes was the filly companion to the Garden State Stakes, both run at Garden State Park, and they were the two very rich stakes that served as the juvenile championship finales of the 1950s and 1960s, much as the Breeders’ Cup races are intended to do now.
And further like Awesome Feather, Quill had a greatly abbreviated second season at the races. The chestnut daughter of Princequillo and the Count Fleet mare Quick Touch raced five times in eight weeks in 1959, winning the Acorn and Mother Goose impressively.
Quill then was a game second in the Coaching Club American Oaks but finished fifth in her fifth start of the year, the Delaware Oaks. She was having “ankle trouble,” and owner Webster and trainer Lucien Laurin, later the trainer of Secretariat and Riva Ridge, gave her time off to recuperate.
Her brief campaign knocked out Quill’s championship opportunities in 1959, and at the season’s end, she was ranked behind four other fillies, including Monmouth Oaks winner Royal Native, Santa Anita Derby winner Silver Spoon, and CCA Oaks winner Resaca. In the championship voting, the Daily Racing Form put Royal Native on top; the Thoroughbred Racing Association poll gave Silver Spoon priority.
After recuperating at Laurin’s Holly Hill training center in South Carolina, Quill returned to racing in 1960, and she made seven starts before her tender ankle sent her to the sidelines again. But while she was good, Quill won four races and ran second in the other three. Her most important victories were the New Castle Stakes and the Delaware Handicap, which was the richest race of the time for fillies and mares.
In the Delaware Handicap, Quill blew away her competition, winning by nine lengths from Royal Native. Quill made only one more start at 4, ended her season in August, and was ranked second to Royal Native in the year-end polls.
The good-looking daughter of Princequillo came back to the races at 5, but even Laurin’s conditioning couldn’t return her to top form. As a producer, Quill became a world-class broodmare, with three high-class stakes winners: One for All (Northern Dancer) won the Sunset Handicap and Canadian International Championship; Caucasus (Nijinsky) won the Irish St. Leger, Sunset, and Manhattan; and Last Feather (Vaguely Noble) won the Musidora Stakes and was third in the English Oaks.
Quill’s first foal was called First Feather, and for Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stables, she produced stakes winners Run the Gantlet (Garden State Stakes and D.C. International), Head of the River (Everglades), and Music of Time (Jim Dandy).
Quill’s last foal was the aformentioned stakes winner Last Feather, and she produced a pair of stakes winners: Ruznama (Forty Niner) and Precious Feather (Gone West).
The latter is the dam of Awesome Feather, and Precious Feather was a very nice mare to send to the little-known stallion Awesome of Course, a stakes-winning son of Awesome Again standing in Florida for his owner-breeder Jacks or Better Farm. [The horse now stands near Ocala at Brent and Crystal Fernung’s Journeyman Stud.]
Fred and Jane Brei, however, had purchased mares to support Awesome of Course, and, after sending Precious Feather to their stallion, were rewarded with Awesome Feather, the best filly from this family since champion Quill.