10/01/2016 2:48PM

Awesome Banner fights hard to win Foolish Pleasure Stakes

Kenny Martin/Coglianese Photos
Awesome Banner (left) narrowly beats Mr. Kisses to win the Foolish Pleasure Stakes on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Awesome Banner won a stretch-long battle with Mr. Kisses to capture the $150,000 Foolish Pleasure division of the Florida Sire Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Mr. Kisses, pressed by Awesome Banner, set the pace, with Awesome Banner poking a head in front at the quarter pole. Mr. Kisses surged again at the top of the stretch and had about a neck on the winner at the eighth pole, but Awesome Banner continued on bravely and just did get his head in front a stride before the wire.

“I knew at the top of the stretch I was in for a dogfight,” said winning rider Tyler Gaffalione.

The top two were much the best in the one-mile race, with Minute Madness four lengths back in third. Awesome Banner ran a mile on a muddy track in $1:36.84 and paid $3.40 as the odds-on choice.

Once a pure speedball, Awesome Banner for the second race in a row was eased off the early pace and raced effectively from there. It looked briefly at the quarter pole like he would leave Mr. Kisses behind, and it remains possible that Awesome Banner, who won the Grade 2 Hutcheson over six furlongs and the Grade 3 Swale over seven here last winter, is a more effective horse in pure sprints.

This victory, the longest race Awesome Banner has won, ran his career mark to a fine 6-2-0 from 10 starts, and the winner’s share of the purse ran his career earnings over $500,000. Bred and owned by Jacks or Better Farm, Awesome Banner is by Awesome of Course and out of the Zamindar mare Miranda Stands.

Diamond Bachelor takes another

Diamond Bachelor, who lost 28 races in a row from September 2013 through last month, won his second straight race Saturday, leading all the way in the $75,000 Mr. Steele Stakes over one mile on grass.

Diamond Bachelor has found his niche being sent to the lead, and jockey Lane Luzzi, aboard for his last three starts, wasted no time putting him there Saturday. Diamond Bachelor opened a wide advantage down the backstretch through a half-mile in 47.52 seconds, a seemingly taxing split on a “good” course, and his pursuers, led by Aire Bueno, closed in turning for home. But Diamond Bachelor rebroke at the eighth pole and comfortably turned away Aire Bueno, going on to a 1 1/2-length victory.

Trainer Patrick Biancone owns Diamond Bachelor with Diamond 100 Racing Club and Robert Trussell. The 5-year-old, gelded son of War Front ran one mile in a snappy 1:36.96 and paid $6.80 after winning for the fourth time in 34 starts.

Silver Diva pays quick dividends

Alan Cohen’s Arindel privately purchased Silver Diva after an Aug. 24 maiden race in which Silver Diva finished second but was placed first via disqualification, and the 2-year-old filly delivered quick returns, winning the $75,000 Our Dear Peggy over one mile on “good” turf Saturday. Devilish Romance was second, and Bahama Halo a very tough-trip third. Edgard Zayas on Bahama Halo claimed foul on the winner for interference at the sixteenth pole, but the claim quickly was disallowed.

Tyler Gaffalione rode Silver Diva to victory for trainer Ronny Werner. A daughter of Circular Quay out of the Trippi mare Chippi, Silver Diva paid $10 to win.