09/01/2016 3:36PM

Awesome Banner, Ballet Diva may be vulnerable again at short prices

Barbara D. Livingston
Ballet Diva, sixth at odds of 1-2 in the $150,000 Three Ring Stakes last time out, may be a favorite to bet against in the Jewel Princess.

The Jacks or Better Farm of Fred and Jane Brei has hit the jackpot again and again on the supremely lucrative Florida Sire Stakes programs, but Aug. 6 was not their day.

First, Ballet Diva finished sixth at odds of 1-2 in the $150,000 Three Ring Stakes, and one race later, Awesome Banner took a shocking defeat as the 1-20 favorite in the $150,000 Unbridled.

Both horses return to action in $150,000 Florida Sire Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, and both might be worth trying to beat once again.

Awesome Banner goes in race 10, the Prized, and despite his loss last out, bettors figure to send him postward a strong favorite once again. On the positive side of the ledger, Awesome Banner broke from post 2 on Aug. 6 and got trapped along the rail in a speed duel before succumbing in the homestretch, and on Saturday, he has a cozier outside draw.

Moreover, Awesome Banner’s best races easily would swamp the competition; this past winter, he won the Grade 2 Swale by five lengths over the very good colt Economic Model, and as recently as July, he finished a close second in the Grade 3 Carry Back.

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Awesome Banner ran hard in the Carry Back and perhaps still was feeling the effects of the race a month later in the Unbridled. But he did not look like a good-feeling horse that day. At his best, Awesome Banner would have outsprinted his rivals for the early lead and avoided the pressured duel, and in the stretch run, once collared, you can see him pin his ears, an unhappy horse.

It was Dream of Me, beaten 14 lengths in the Carry Back, who got the better of Awesome Banner last month, but that was a career-best effort for Dream of Me, and he’s far from assured of repeating the performance. Multirace players could consider spreading around, hoping for a price, while another pace battle between Awesome Banner and others could set the table for Mr. Kisses or Danbury, both of whom will offer long odds.

Ballet Diva, meanwhile, appears to present the classic case of a horse who matured early, got rich as a 2-year-old, and failed to progress much at age 3. Her career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 83 came 12 starts and 14 months ago, and she could only finish sixth last month in the Three Ring. She is a need-the-lead type drawn inside other speed and is nearly certain to be overbet again Saturday in the Jewel Princess.

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The Three Ring winner, R Kinsley Doll, was coming off a loss in a $30,000 conditioned claiming race, suggesting that the Florida-sired 3-year-old filly division stands wide open for a sharp horse who gets a good trip Saturday.

◗ Lochte has a considerable edge on the competition in the $75,000 The Vid Stakes with something close to a top performance, the obvious question being whether he can deliver one while making his first start since January.

The 6-year-old Lochte finished a good fourth in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale Stakes when last seen racing Jan. 9, and in his previous race, he won the Grade 3 Tropical Park Turf by four lengths. His work pattern for his comeback run is less than glittering, and trainer Allan Hunter Jr., for whom Lochte makes his first start, concedes that his horse might be rusty.

“We’re pleased with the horse,” Hunter said. “He’s been training great since he came down here toward the end of June. We’re happy with where we’re at, and he’s ready to participate, but I think he’ll probably need a race.”

Lochte faces a sharp rival in Aire Bueno, who has won two races in a row and four of his last five and decisively defeated two of his rivals in The Vid when he last raced Aug. 19.

◗ Daring Kathy went wire to wire and easily won the Soaring Softly Stakes on Aug. 6 over the Gulfstream turf, and at first glance, she seems formidable in the $75,000 Wasted Tears on Saturday.

But the Wasted Tears is an open race, the Soaring Softly was restricted, and Daring Kathy got loose on an easy lead after a main pace rival, First Illusion, dropped her jockey at the start. First Illusion is back in the Wasted Tears, and presuming her rider stays aboard this time, she could make life difficult for the front-running Daring Kathy.

The 1 1/16-mile trip is a touch far for Kiss to Remember, but it suits Pink Poppy, who struggled on a wet Monmouth course against Grade 3 competition July 31 but looks poised to win at a fair price Saturday.