01/02/2016 2:04PM

Awesome Banner impresses in Hutcheson Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Awesome Banner, ridden by Jose Caraballo, scores by 4 3/4 lengths in the Grade 3 Hutcheson Stakes on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Not many horses have started their careers quite as auspiciously as Awesome Banner. The homebred set a course record in his debut, then returned from an injury seven months later to win a Grade 3 stakes in his second start, drawing away through the stretch to a convincing 4 3/4-length decision over Noholdingback Bear in Saturday’s $100,000 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park.

Awesome Banner launched his career with a 9 3/4-length maiden win at Gulfstream on June 5, establishing a 4 1/2-furlong course record, only to miss the remainder of his 2-year-old campaign due to a chip in his knee.

A son of Awesome of Course, Awesome Banner returned from that injury none the worse for wear, setting a pressured pace along the inside under jockey Jose Caraballo before readily disposing of Noholdingback Bear in early stretch and drawing away to another one-sided win.  

Noholdingback Bear, stakes-placed in his 2-year-old finale, broke a step slowly and recovered to press the pace but proved no match for the winner while failing to change leads until late stretch. Sheikh of Sheikhs raced wide and had no rally, finishing a disappointing and well-beaten third.

Awesome Banner is trained by Stanley Gold for his principal client, Fred Brei’s Jacks or Better Farm. He completed six furlongs over a fast track in 1:09.57 and paid $4.60 as the somewhat-surprising favorite in the field of seven newly turned 3-year-olds.

“He got the chip the first time we breezed him after he broke his maiden,” said Gold. “There was no question it was fixable, and now we have a fresh horse with a big future.”

Gold said he was a bit concerned when Caraballo put Awesome Banner under a drive on the final turn.

“First time out and pressured all the way, you could find yourself coming up short,” Gold said. “Despite whatever you do, there’s nothing like a race to get tight. But when he started to draw off down the stretch, he really impressed me.”

Gold said he thinks longer distances will not be an issue with Awesome Banner and did not rule out trying him in one of the major 3-year-old Kentucky Derby preps here later in the meet.

“Because of his demeanor, I don’t think distance will be a problem,” said Gold. “We’ve been training him to sprint, and we’re running him in a sprint, but he’s never shown a problem doing with him what you want, so certainly we’re going to try to stretch him out.”