According to the Gulfstream Park website, the unbeaten sprinter Awesome Banner and his stablemate Fellowship–both owned by Jacks or Better Farm and trained by Stanley Gold–will run in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) on February 27th at Gulfstream Park.
Awesome Banner, a son of Awesome of Course, broke his maiden by 9 3/4 lengths last June at Gulfstream in track-record time, then returned from a long layoff to win the January 2nd Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream by 4 3/4 lengths. Most recently, Awesome Banner won Gulfstream’s Swale Stakes (gr. II) by five lengths in the sharp time of 1:21.81 for seven furlongs. The 8.5-furlong Fountain of Youth Stakes will be Awesome Banner’s longest race to date, but Gold is confident that the colt can handle the extra distance.
“I don’t see a mile and a sixteenth being a problem. He won’t be the first horse to have gone from sprinting to two turns,” Gold was quoted as saying. “He’s not a run-off, speed-crazy horse. He’s just a quick horse.”
“A mile and a sixteenth is not a mile and a quarter. That takes a whole other kind of horse, but you’re not going to know until you try it,” Gold added. “And you’re probably never going to try it, unless you prove that you’re at that level. You have to progress to it. It takes a special horse.”
But although the Fountain of Youth Stakes is a major prep for the Kentucky Derby, offering 50 Derby qualification points to the winner, Gold isn’t ready to commit Awesome Banner to targeting the Kentucky Derby.
“I don’t see any reason to think about the Kentucky Derby now. Remember you’re talking about a horse that doesn’t have any Derby points. To say I don’t think about it…sure, everybody thinks about it,” Gold said. “But I’m just one of those guys who thinks about the next race. I just want to run good in the Fountain of Youth.”
“There could be [pressure] if I wanted it to be. I don’t feel it. He’s run three races. He’s still got a lot to prove. I’m not going to get into the pressure thing, because you can only do what you can do,” Gold said. “I don’t feel any pressure. I feel excitement.”
In his most recent workout, Awesome Banner breezed five furlongs in 1:00.03 on February 13th at Gulfstream Park, the same day that Fellowship–coming off of a third-place finish behind Derby favorite Mohaymen in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II)–went five furlongs in :58.65 seconds. With these solid workouts under their belts, Gold isn’t planning to give Awesome Banner and Fellowship additional fast workouts before the Fountain of Youth.
“I’m not planning on doing anything (Saturday) – maybe a little something that’s not very serious – because they both had solid works that I planned them to have when I planned them to have them,” Gold said. “I’m not planning on breezing them.”
Regarding Fellowship’s workout and running style, Gold added “He doesn’t want to be rushed, but he does have some lick, the 58-and-change shows it. He doesn’t want to be rushed. He wants to finish. He was quietly waiting to go long,” Gold said. “There wasn’t a real solid pace in the Holy Bull, and Mohaymen had his way, whether or not he was the best horse in the race. There will be a pace in this race. I expect him to be running late and I expect him to run a good race. If he does, then maybe people will start to notice him.”
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