01/06/2011 5:00PM

2010 Eclipse Awards: Awesome Feather

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Tom Keyser

Fred Brei hit a heck of a lick the first weekend in November.

He won the Grade 1, $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Awesome Feather on Nov. 5, and two days later sold her at auction for $2.3 million. Awesome Feather had swept her division of the Florida Stallion Stakes leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, and for her accomplishments last year she is a finalist for champion 2-year-old filly of 2010.

Brei races as Jacks or Better Farm, an 89-acre facility in Ocala, Fla., that he established in 1997 with his wife, Jane. Awesome Feather is a product of the farm, a Brei homebred by the stakes-winning Awesome Again stallion Awesome of Course and the stakes-winning Gone West mare Precious Feather.

“We’re a small breeder,” Brei said. “We only have 14 to 16 foals a year. You know, we foal the mares on the farm, raise the foals, take them to our training barn, break them, get them ready to go to Calder. And we do it year after year, hoping we’re going to get the good ones.”

Awesome Feather showed talent right from the start, when she won a maiden special weight sprint at Calder in her debut on May 1. Jeffrey Sanchez was aboard for trainer Stanley Gold, and the men would continue to team with Awesome Feather throughout a season in which she would become just the third horse in 28 years to sweep all three legs of the filly division of the Florida Stallion Stakes.

Awesome Feather set herself up for a run in the series in July, when she won the $100,000 J J’sdream over open company at Calder. She advanced to the track’s Florida Stallion Stakes, and in the first division, the $75,000 Desert Vixen on Aug. 7, she stalked the pace to win by 4 3/4 lengths.

Awesome Feather won the second leg, the $100,000 Susan’s Girl, by a similar margin on Aug. 28, then made the move to two turns for the $365,000 My Dear Girl. Awesome Feather dominated by 8 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile race.

“Breeders’ Cup!” Gold said afterward. “That’s what we discussed going into the race. If she won and did it right, we’d go to the Breeders’ Cup. I knew she was good, but I don’t think I was prepared for the performance she gave today. In this case, I think I underestimated her.”

The My Dear Girl performance, as well as a 5-for-5 record, sent Awesome Feather to post as the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies. She stalked the pace in third early before engaging R Heat Lightning, brushed with that one in the stretch, then went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

“When the other filly bumped her, she moved again and wanted to run more,” Sanchez said.

“It threw her off stride just a hair,” Gold said of the incident. “She went back in to win. That’s what she’s showing us. She’s got a lot of heart and grit, and she doesn’t want to quit.”

Awesome Feather was sent to the auction ring on Nov. 7, and Frank Stronach cast the sales-topping bid for her at the Fasig-Tipton sale in Kentucky. She is expected to race at 3, and while Brei will no doubt miss his stable star, she will remain a crowning achievement for years to come.

“We bred and own her sire, Awesome of Course, and we bought her dam as a yearling and raised her,” he said following the Breeders’ Cup. “So, when you have a double homebred, that’s as good as it gets.”

PAST PERFORMANCES: Awesome Feather's 2010 season PPs (PDF)

KEY RACE REPLAY: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs >>