01/30/2016 2:42PM

Awesome Banner makes a big statement in Swale Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Awesome Banner, ridden by Jose Caraballo, wins the Grade 2 Swale Stakes by five lengths Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Awesome Banner kept his record perfect and likely earned a berth in one of the Kentucky Derby preps after registering his third one-sided victory in as many starts, a five-length decision over Economic Model in Saturday’s Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream Park.

With regular rider Jose Caraballo aboard, Awesome Banner used his explosive speed to set the pace while pressed from the outset by Noholdingback Bear through early splits of 22.68 seconds and 45.07 for a half-mile. Awesome Banner readily shook clear upon settling into the stretch and was never seriously menaced thereafter while kept about his business by Caraballo to the end.

Economic Model saved ground into the stretch and rallied belatedly to nip Richie the Bull by a nose for second. The latter came wide off the turn while moving within striking distance of the winner but could not sustain his bid.

Noholdingback Bear had little left after five furlongs, weakening steadily to finish fourth. Ready Dancer and Cardio Cowboy completed the order of finish.

Awesome Banner, a 3-year-old homebred son of Awesome of Course, is owned by Fred Brei’s Jacks or Better Farm and trained by Stanley Gold.  He won the Grade 3 Hutcheson stakes in similarly impressive fashion going six furlongs four ago.

Awesome Banner returned $3.80 after completing seven-eighths of a mile in 1:21.81.

“I was anxious until I saw him draw off,” said Gold. “I wanted to see him do it the same way he did last time, and he had that gear, and he had that stamina, and he just took off. I’m very satisfied, and as time goes on, rather than run big races, he’s showing consistency. We know, kind of, what we’ve got here. Let’s just see how far up the ladder he can go.”

Gold said he isn’t certain what will be next for Awesome Banner.

“Certainly, two turns is going to be on the horizon,” said Gold. “If you want to think bigger than the Fountain of Youth, you have to start going along and getting points. A mile and one-sixteenth will be no problem for him, I’m sure. A mile and a sixteenth is not a mile and a quarter, but you’ll know better when you start running a distance of ground and see if he can relax and stay the ground. That’s what we’ll see.”

The 1 1/16-mile, Grade 2 Fountain of Youth will be run Feb. 27.