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.”
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