Fellowship on Target for Florida Derby; Awesome Banner Back to Sprints Sovereign Award Finalist Caren Making Dirt Debut in $75,000 Any Limit
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Gulfstream Park-based trainer Stanley Gold is sending his top 3-year-olds in opposite directions, pointing Fellowship to the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) April 2 while cutting fellow Jack or Better Farm homebred Awesome Banner back to sprints.
Fellowship is coming off a pair of third-place finishes behind undefeated Mohaymen, ranked as the leading Triple Crown contender in the country, in both the Holy Bull (G2) Jan. 30 and Xpressbet Fountain of Youth (G2) Feb. 27 at Gulfstream.
Winner of the $500,000 Florida Sire In Reality Stakes last fall, the chestnut colt will be trying 1 1/8 miles for the first time in the Florida Derby. The In Reality, Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth are all run at 1 1/16 miles.
“Fellowship is going to go in the Florida Derby for sure. He’s training good. He breezed in 47 [seconds March 12]. We’ve got time for another work or two if we want. I’m looking forward to the race. The extra sixteenth of a mile is going to help him,” Gold said. “He’ll tell me what he needs to do. I left leeway for him to work one or two more times and he probably will work again, maybe not twice, but it all depends on the weather, the horse, and how it’s going. But he’s right where he needs to be.”
The 65th Florida Derby is shaping up to be a showdown between Mohaymen and Nyquist, the undefeated champion 2-year-old male of 2015 based in California with trainer Doug O’Neill. Fountain of Youth runner-up Zulu and Azar, a Grade 2 winner on turf, are also under consideration for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the pasts two runnings of the Florida Derby with Constitution in 2014 and Materiality last year.
“No one is expecting a large field so that doesn’t ever help a horse that’s coming off the pace,” Gold said. “It wasn’t a large field last time, either, so we’ll deal with it. That’s the way it is.”
Awesome Banner won each of his first three starts in impressive front-running fashion, setting Gulfstream’s 4 ½-furlong track record (51.07 seconds) in his unveiling last June. He opened his sophomore campaign winning the six-furlong Hutcheson (G3) Jan. 2 and the seven-furlong Swale (G2) Jan. 30, earning a trip to the Fountain of Youth.
In the Fountain of Youth, Awesome Banner was hustled to the front after being bumped by Golden Ray out of the gate, led for a half-mile and faded to finish fifth. He returned two weeks later in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby (G2) where he rated off the pace and never got closer than 2 ½ lengths before tiring to run eighth of nine.
“Awesome Banner came out fine. Some will go long and some won’t, and he’s shown us twice without an excuse he can’t go long so he won’t go long anymore,” Gold said. “He came back good and went to the track [Tuesday] for the first time. It’s like he never ran. By the three-eighths pole he was done. I think the message is there: forget that dream.”
Gold mentioned the Summit of Speed in July at Gulfstream as well as the six-furlong Amsterdam (G2) July 30 and the seven-furlong King’s Bishop (G1) Aug. 27 at Saratoga Race Course as possible future spots.
“There will be other choices, but we’d be foolish to run him long again. We found out what we needed to find out,” he said. “The timing of things, we didn’t want to go out of town. We could have gone to New York and looked for a spot but we didn’t want to. We still wanted to see if he could go long so we tried him in the Tampa Bay Derby. He was excuse-free. He sat off the pace. We wanted him off the pace, we were on the outside, and that’s what he did. He sat off the pace and didn’t have any dirt in his face. He was free to go when he wanted and he was free to stop when he wanted and that’s exactly what he did. He’ll be a sprinter and hopefully as good as he was. I’m optimistic there.”
Sovereign Award Finalist Caren Making Dirt Debut in $75,000 Any Limit
Multiple stakes winner Caren, a Sovereign Award finalist for Canada’s champion 2-year-old filly of 2015, is set to make her seasonal debut in Saturday’s $75,000 Any Limit Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
It will also be the first time on conventional dirt for the Robert Marzilli-owned bay, whose sire, Society’s Chairman, earned his lone graded stakes triumph at Gulfstream in the 2010 Appleton (G3).
“It’s going to be a new thing, but she’s breezed good enough on it,” Gulfstream-based trainer Michael De Paulo said. “We’ve never really pressed her in any of her works, but until you run on it you never know. We’re expecting her to run real well.
“She’s won from 4 ½ [furlongs] to a mile and a sixteenth. Her form is pretty good,” he said. “It’s funny, she’s bred to turf and the only race she got beat was on the grass. She’s a pretty nice horse.”
Caren won five of six starts and earned $340,818 in purse earnings at 2 including four stakes on Woodbine’s synthetic surface, the Shady Well, Nandi, Victorian Queen and Princess Elizabeth. Her loss came in a third-place finish to Catch a Glimpse in the Natalma (G2) on turf.
Catch a Glimpse, bred in Kentucky and trained by seven-time Sovereign Award-winner Mark Casse, won both her starts at Woodbine last year including an allowance prior to the Natalma. Other 2-year-old filly finalists are Ami’s Mesa and Grade 3 winner Gamble’s Ghost. Winners will be announced April 8.
“She’s up for a Sovereign Award and we’d love to say we should win it but she got beat in the Natalma and the horse that beat me won the Breeders’ Cup,” De Paulo said. “Did I know she’d be that kind? We were hoping she’d be a good Ontario-sired horse. She’s won a Canadian-bred stake, too, which is less restrictive. When you run against Sam-Son [Farm] up there, they’ve got horses by Smart Strike, A.P. Indy, whatever, so the Canadian-bred races sometimes are fairly difficult. The Ontario-sired ones are the easiest but she’s been able to run in both.”
Caren will break from post five in the six-horse Any Limit field at co-highweight of 120 pounds with Florida-bred stakes winner Ballet Diva. Luis Saez will be up for the first time after being ridden exclusively by Jesse Campbell.
Ultimate Betting Challenge This Weekend at Gulfstream, Santa Anita
There are still spots open for The Stronach Group's Ultimate Betting Challenge this weekend at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park.
The two-day event has up to $200,000 in cash prizes and as many as 10 berths in the National Handicapping Contest and five berths in the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge.
The tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday and limited to the first 200 entries.
The live-money contest will have a $4,500 buy-in ($3,000 bankroll and $1,500 prize pool). Players will be required to wager a minimum of $150 per race on at least 10 races per day, with a minimum of four races each from Gulfstream and Santa Anita. Contest wagers will be win, place, show, exacta and trifecta. There will be no superfecta or multi-race bets.
For rules, fact sheet and entry form go to: http://www.gulfstreampark.com/racing/handicapping/handicapping-challenges