Track Reports

Gulfstream Park Notes: Awesome Banner, Fellowship Both Pointing to Fountain of Youth

Awesome Banner - Photo Credit: Lauren King
Lauren King

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Jacks or Better Farm’s Awesome Banner and Fellowship are both being pointed to the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 27, reported trainer Stanley Gold Thursday morning.

Awesome Banner is undefeated in three starts, including back-to-back dominating triumphs in the six-furlong Hutcheson (G3) and seven-furlong Swale (G2) during Gulfstream’s Championship Meet. Fellowship, who captured the $500,000 In Reality against Florida-breds in October, finished third behind undefeated Mohaymen and Greenpointcrusader in the Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2) last time out.

The 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, the final major prep for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) April 2, is slated to be Awesome Banner’s first time running around two turns.

“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 said. “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.”

The son of Awesome of Course, who has won his three starts by a combined 19 ½ lengths in front-running fashion, was one of 19 individual horses included in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager last weekend.

“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.”

A trainer could be expected to start feeling pressure while pointing an undefeated 3-year-old toward stakes on the road to the Kentucky Derby, but Gold has managed to keep his nerves under control.

“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.”

Last Saturday at Gulfstream, Awesome Banner breezed five furlongs in 1:00.03, while Fellowship turned in the fastest of 51 five-furlong breezes with a clocking of 58.65 seconds.

“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.”

Fellowship won at first asking at 1 1/16 miles while taking the Florida Sire Stakes In Reality by 4 ½ lengths after trailing a 14-horse field on the far turn.

“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.”

Cash Back Making Stakes Debut in Saturday’s Melody of Colors
Undefeated in her first two starts at Fair Grounds, Richard and Bertram Klein homebred Cash Back will make the jump to stakes company in Saturday’s $75,000 Melody of Colors.

Trained by Brad Cox, the bay daughter of Congrats drew post three in a field of eight 3-year-old fillies set to go five furlongs on the turf course. Jose Lezcano will ride for the first time.

Cox, 36, is a native of Louisville who worked as an assistant to Dallas Stewart before going out on his own in late 2004. Cash Back will be just the third horse he has started at Gulfstream, after Seneca Destiny was second in the Tiara and Mal Guapo was off the board in the Jewel on Claiming Crown day Dec. 5 that kicked off the Championship Meet.

Cash Back didn’t make her 2-year-old debut until Dec. 3, taking the lead at the top of the stretch and drawing away to a 1 ¾-length maiden victory under a hand ride at odds of 8-1. She went off as the favorite in her return Jan. 14, going gate-to-wire in a 2 ½-length allowance score with only mild urging. Both came on the grass at 5 ½ furlongs.

“We just gave her plenty of time and brought her along nice and easy. She got shins so we backed off of her in the fall and got her going again,” Cox said. “We didn’t need to crank on her a whole lot to run her the first time. We worked her out of the gate once or twice and worked her from the pole as well but we felt like when she broke her maiden there was room for improvement and she showed that with her second race. We honestly think she’s improved since the last race. She’s really training well. She’s training as well as I think she could.”

Cash Back is out of the graded stakes-winning sprint mare Hidden Assets, whose offspring include multiple stakes winner and Grade 3-placed Good Deed as well as stakes winner Country Day, who ran second in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Cash Back schooled in the Gulfstream Park paddock and walking ring Thursday afternoon.

“I’ve had her since maybe mid-summer and we always liked her. She comes with a big page, I guess you could say. The mare has produced nine winners or something like that and four stakes winners. For that family, it’s not a surprise when one out of that mare runs because she’s a really, really good, tough mare,” Cox said. “She’s got a lot of natural speed. The mare produces babies with a lot of early speed. At five-eighths on the turf, pretty much all you can do is get out and go, right?”

J R’s Holiday to Work Friday for Palm Beach (G3), Wildcat Red on Mend
Kitten’s Joy Stakes winner J R’s Holiday returns to the work tab Friday in preparation for his graded stakes debut in the $150,000 Palm Beach (G3) Feb. 27 on the undercard of the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) program.

It will be the first breeze for the 3-year-old Harlan’s Holiday colt since rallying from last to first along the inside to win the one-mile Kitten’s Joy by three-quarters of a length Jan. 30 at odds of 19-1.

“He didn’t surprise me. I had a lot of faith in the horse,” trainer Jose Garoffalo said. “He’s still in good shape. He’s been training very good since the last race. He’s been improving a lot mentally. He was a horse that was very green and we needed to work a lot with him in the morning when he came here. He’s been improving and showing his class lately. If everything goes good after the breeze we’re going to run next week.”

J R’s Holiday has won two straight races and three of his last four starts including a third-place finish in the Armed Forces Stakes Oct. 3 at Gulfstream, where he was beaten less than a length. Both his maiden triumph and entry-level allowance win came at the Palm Beach distance of 1 1/16 miles.

“He’s very good in the morning and I always thought that he was going to be a good horse, especially when I put him on the grass. Since then he’s a different horse,” Garoffalo said. “We’ll see. He’s doing good. The horses in the [Palm Beach] are going to be pretty much the same field he beat last time. It’s a half-furlong longer this time which is better for him. The longer he runs the better. I have a lot of faith in the horse. He’s got the class.”

Garoffalo said multiple graded stakes winner Wildcat Red will return to the track next week for the first time since finishing seventh in the Fred W. Hooper (G3) Feb. 6. The Florida-bred millionaire opened his 5-year-old season running second to X Y Jet in the Sunshine Millions Sprint Jan. 16.

“He came back with some problems behind, the same that he had before, just a muscle problem,” he said. “It was not a big deal but I gave him a couple of weeks off and he’s coming back to the track on Monday. I checked him yesterday with the vet and he looks very good. He’s happy again and he’ll be back soon. I’m going to keep him in the short races. He has grown a lot. He’s not the same horse he was when he was 2 or 3. He was very skinny and small and light, now he’s a very strong horse. I’m happy with him.”

Source: Gulfstream Park

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