Awesome Banner, Lucy N Ethel lead all the way at Gulfstream
Front-running favorites captured both of Gulfstream Park's graded sprint stakes on Saturday, the first ones of 2016 for newly-turned three-year-olds.
In the $100,000 Hutcheson (G3), Awesome Banner made an impressive return from a seven-month layoff to win going away by 4 3/4 lengths, covering six furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.57. Under Jose Carabello, the 13-10 choice set a pressured pace of :22.10 and :44.87 before stamping his authority late over Noholdingback Bear, with Sheikh of Sheikhs third.
A Florida homebred racing for Jacks or Better Farm, Awesome Banner captured his 4 1/2-furlong debut at Gulfstream by 9 3/4 lengths in track-record time June 5, but did not race again during his juvenile season. The son of Awesome of Course is trained by Stanley Gold and has now earned $92,260.
"He got the [knee] chip the first time after we breezed him after he broke his maiden," Gold said. "He showed something was wrong, we x-rayed him and it was there. There was no question involved, it was 'fix it.' You just go on, you don't think about those things. It would have been nice to have him for the Sire Stakes but we did pretty well in the Sire Stakes and now we have a fresh horse with a bright future.
"Because of his demeanor I don't think distance is going to be a problem. He's sprinting because we're training him to sprint and we're riding him to sprint but he's never shown any problem to do what you want with. Certainly we're going to try to stretch him out."
In the $100,000 Old Hat (G3) for three-year-old fillies, Lucy N Ethel remained undefeated from three starts with a 3 3/4-length tally under Josh Navarro after setting fractions of :22.68 and :45.59. She covered six furlongs in 1:10.03 and paid $3.80.
My Dear Venezuela, a 20-1 chance, raced in second throughout, while Ballet Diva rallied up the inside late to finish third.
A Pennsylvania homebred racing for J. A. G. Racing and Jettany Thoroughbred Corp., Lucy N Ethel has now earned $126,420. She preceded this victory with two scores at Parx Racing, the first a one-length win against state-bred maidens in November and the second by 13 1/4 lengths in an open first-level allowance in December. A daughter of During, Lucy N Ethel is trained by Ramon Preciado.
"She ran how we expected. I think the next time she's going to be even better," Preciado said.
"I don't know [about her potential]. She could be better than we thought. At the beginning we thought she was a nice filly. Her first race, she impressed up a little bit, but in her second race, she really exploded. This race she was better, and the next time she's going to be better."
The next graded stakes for three-year-old sprinters at Gulfstream are the $150,000 Swale (G2) and the $200,000 Forward Gal (G2) for fillies. Both races are on January 30 and contested at seven furlongs.
(Awesome Banner photo: Kenny Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)