01/28/2016 12:20PM

Forward Gal, Swale favorites could be any kind

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Cathryn Sophia wins the Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel by 16 1 /4 lengths.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Aside from being seven-furlong graded stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, the Swale and Forward Gal share another common bond this year: Each has a favorite who has gone untested in two spectacular starts, with the sky apparently the limit for both horses.

“I think I’m going into the race with some real ammunition,” said John Servis, who sends out Cathryn Sophia in the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal for fillies.

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Stanley Gold will saddle Awesome Banner for the Grade 2, $150,000 Swale for males.

“There’s an upside, unlimited potential, because he hasn’t shown you just how good he is yet,” Gold said.

The Forward Gal and Swale will be run as the third and fourth races on an 11-race card.

The 40th Forward Gal drew seven fillies, with Cathryn Sophia having drawn post 2. Joel Rosario picks up the mount from Roberto Rosado, who was aboard the Maryland-bred filly when she won her two races by a combined 29 lengths. The waters get considerably deeper Saturday when she faces accomplished rivals in Conquest Babayaga, Island Saint, and Ballet Diva.

“She’s going up against the best company she’s hooked into, that’s for sure,” said Servis, best known for his work with 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones.

Awesome Banner has just five opponents in the 35th Swale. He has won his two races by a combined 14 1/2 lengths, most notably the Grade 3 Hutcheson Stakes here Jan. 2 as the 6-5 favorite.

Gold trained Awesome Feather for longtime client Jacks or Better Farm to become the 2-year-old filly champion of 2010. Awesome Banner also is owned by Jacks or Better, although Gold acknowledged that direct comparisons obviously are premature.

“If he wins, it’s going to be ‘Whoa!’ ” said Gold.

Jose Caraballo has a return call on the homebred Awesome Banner, who will break from post 3. Richie the Bull and Noholdingback Bear are his chief threats.

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KEY CONTENDERS

Forward Gal (race 3)

Cathryn Sophia, by Street Boss

(Beyers: 94-92)

◗ Owned by the Cash Is King LLC of Afleet Alex fame, this speedy filly had her career delayed by bucked shins before being unveiled at Parx in late October, followed by an ungraded stakes at Laurel Park in early December.

Conquest Babayaga, by Uncle Mo

(Beyers: 80-78)

◗ One of a handful of Conquest Stables 3-year-olds competing in stakes this weekend at Gulfstream for the Mark Casse stable, she makes her dirt debut after a pair of promising starts over the Woodbine synthetic.

Island Saint, by Speightstown

(Last 3 Beyers: 89-66-57)

◗ A Siena Farm homebred trained by Todd Pletcher, she broke through with a career-best race when she romped in a Dec. 11 allowance over the local surface.

Swale Stakes (race 4)

Awesome Banner, by Awesome of Course

(Beyers: 89-NA)

◗ Having undergone knee surgery following a June romp against Gulfstream maidens, this colt was even more impressive when crushing his Hutcheson foes in front-running style.

Richie the Bull, by Benny the Bull

(Last 3 Beyers: 80-81-70)

◗ Illinois-bred makes his first start since a private purchase following an easy score in restricted company in December and ships over from Tampa Bay Downs following a nice series of works for new trainer Joan Scott.

Noholdingback Bear, by Put It Back

(Beyers: 78-83-82)

◗ Was the runner-up behind Awesome Banner in the Hutcheson.

Economic Model, by Flatter

(Beyer: 80)

◗ Chad Brown-trained colt was hustled into the race and is no sure starter, but if he goes, he could loom as a danger off his sharp August debut at Saratoga and steady interim works.