Undefeated Awesome Banner Faces Test in Saturday’s G2 Swale at Gulfstream Park

Awesome Banner - Photo Credit: Kenny Martin
Kenny Martin

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Jacks or Better Farm’s Awesome Banner is entered to seek his third victory without defeat in Saturday’s $150,000 Swale (G2) at Gulfstream Park as an unknown quantity of sorts.

“I can’t say that he is what we’d like to see, but I can’t say he’s not,” trainer Stanley Gold said. “The nice thing is you have no reason to think he’s not. There’s an upside, unlimited potential, because he hasn’t shown you just how good he is yet.”

The 3-year-old homebred son of Awesome of Course has won his only two career races in impressive front-running fashion, breaking a Gulfstream track record for 4 ½ furlongs with a 9 ¾-length debut victory in June before coming off a seven-month layoff to capture the Hutcheson (G3) by 4 ¾ lengths.

Awesome Banner’s promising career launch didn’t come as much of a surprise to his trainer.

“What’s gratifying is when you earmark one before you’ve even had the tack on them and they turn out to be that kind. I liked him when he came in. He’s the one that I picked,” Gold said. “Often when I went by his stall, I forgot I was looking at a 2-year-old. I thought I was looking at a 3-year-old, not because he was big and imposing. It was just the way he handled himself, the way he did things.”

Gold finds himself in familiar territory with Awesome Banner, having trained Jacks or Better Farm’s Awesome Feather,  who had won her first two races impressively in 2010 before going on to sweep the Florida Sire Stakes, win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), and earn an Eclipse Award.

“It was like with Awesome Feather. I always used to say, ‘I know that she’s this good, but I don’t know in her next step if she’s that good, because she hasn’t been tested. But I can’t tell you she isn’t,’” said Gold, who has awarded the return mount to Jose Caraballo. “It’s the same thing with this horse in the Swale. If he wins, it’s going to be ‘Whoa!’”

Awesome Banner has a long way to go to even approach Awesome Feather’s level of excellence, but his triumph in the Hutcheson was an exceptional feat. Coming off a seven-month layoff and surgery to remove a knee chip, Awesome Banner fought off two-pronged pressure into the stretch before drawing off to a commanding victory in the six-furlong event for 3-year-olds.

“He handled the pressure pretty good. I don’t think that is going to be an issue,” Gold said. “He had two of them breathing down his back and he wasn’t unmanageable. It wasn’t like, ‘I had to let him go because he was pulling too hard,’ or ‘I had to get after him.’ He went along with him and when it was time, he responded. Hopefully, it will be the same thing this time.”

Awesome Banner may very well have to fight off early pressure again in the Swale, which attracted a field of six 3-year-olds. Bear Stables’ Noholdingback Bear, who was involved in the early pace pressure before finishing second in the Hutcheson, is scheduled to return in Saturday’s seven-furlong stakes.

The Michael De Paulo-trained colt, who broke his maiden at first asking and finished second in the $100,000 Juvenile Dirt Sprint at Keeneland, signaled his sharpness with a bullet five-furlong breeze in 58.94 seconds at Gulfstream last Saturday.

“He worked a little fast. We went easy the work before, so we wanted him to do a little more this time,” De Paulo said.

De Paulo expects the son of Put It Back to offer an improved effort Saturday.

“His last race was good. I thought he’d run a little better. When he came back from Kentucky, he had a shin that was bugging him a little, so he had a little time off. Then he shipped here. Maybe he wasn’t as tight as he could have been,” De Paulo said. “Hopefully, he’ll be a little better this time.

“The one positive, he’s going to give us six pounds, being a graded-stakes winner. Hopefully, that will help. Maybe there’ll be other speed in the race. Hopefully, we can sit off them a little.”

Everest Stables’ Cardio Cowboy looks capable of applying early pressure looking to his sharp debut victory at Parx Racing Dec. 12, when he pressed the early pace before drawing off to a 4 ¾-length triumph. Parx-based Frankie Pennington has the mount aboard the Eddie Colletti Jr.-trained son of Petionville.

Richie’s Usual Suspect’s Richie the Bull will bring stakes credentials into the Swale, having captured his third victory in four starts in the Futurity for Illinois-breds at Hawthorne Dec. 12. The Joan Scott-trained son of Benny the Bull is slated to be ridden by Javier Castellano.

Let’s Go Stable’s Ready Dancer, who finished fourth in the Futurity (G2) prior to subpar turf debut last time out, and Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Economic Model, who captured his debut at Saratoga in August in his only start, round out the field.

Source: Gulfstream Park

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