12/14/2012 4:14PM

Gulfstream Park: Awesome Feather's retirement leaves void in Brown's barn

Barbara D. Livingston
Awesome Feather's only loss in 11 career starts came in last month's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Chad Brown’s barn at the Palm Meadows training center will seem just a little emptier this winter with the departure of Awesome Feather, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2010 whose retirement was announced Thursday by Adena Springs Farm.

Awesome Feather captured 10 of 11 career starts, her only setback coming in last month’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Awesome Feather was purchased by Frank Stronach just two days after her victory in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and turned over to Brown, who did a marvelous job nursing her through physical issues that included a tendon injury that forced her to miss the majority of her 3-year-old campaign.

Brown won four races with Awesome Feather, including the Grade 1 Gazelle in November 2011 and the Sunshine Millions Distaff here last winter.

“She’s a really special horse,” Brown said. “For any horse to come back from that type of tendon injury is remarkable, and she did it at such a high level. I’m sorry she couldn’t go out a winner, but I’m very proud of her. I’m proud of my staff. Everyone involved with her really did a lot of hard work around her. But the most important member of the whole team was her. She just had the will to overcome a lot of things. She had such a tremendous amount of talent. One of the all-time greats I’ve worked around.”

Brown said he never found any visible excuse for Awesome Feather’s performance in the Ladies’ Classic. The second choice in the wagering at 2-1 behind defending champion Royal Delta, Awesome Feather raced forwardly under jockey Jeffrey Sanchez while kept wide for six furlongs but had little left through the stretch, ultimately finishing sixth, nearly 10 lengths behind the winner. Sanchez rode Awesome Feather in each of her 11 career starts.

“She came out of the race well. No glaring problem. No major problem,” Brown said. “I’m not sure what happened or if I’ll ever know. Maybe she just didn’t care for the surface or maybe she was just protecting herself or something. She just wasn’t herself either in the race or after the race, and the decision was made to breed her. I think she deserved that at this point.”

Despite the loss of a champion like Awesome Feather, Brown’s barn is amply stocked for the winter. He has an arsenal that includes four highly regarded juveniles – Balance the Books, Noble Tune, Whatsdachances, and Remsen runner-up Normandy Invasion.

“The three horses from the Breeders’ Cup – Balance the Books, Noble Tune, and Whatsdachances – all started back under tack recently and are under light training at Palm Meadows,” Brown said. “I gave them all a little breather, and we don’t have plans for any of them at the moment. Someone will show up in the Palm Beach, more than likely Balance the Books. I’d like to run Noble Tune down here once. I’m not sure what race, and the same for Whatsdachances. She’ll probably have one start here somewhere.”

Brown said Normandy Invasion just started back galloping after being given a bit of a break following a tough nose setback in the Remsen.

“The question with Normandy Invasion is whether he’ll have two or three races before the Derby,” Brown said. “I’ll sit down shortly with Mr. [Rick] Porter and we’ll come up with some kind of a plan.”

Bern Identity possible for Holy Bull

Another of the leading prospects for the major Kentucky Derby preps here this winter currently stabled at Palm Meadows is Bern Identity, who worked an easy three furlongs in 34.20 seconds on Friday. It was his first breeze since finishing an unlucky second behind Goldencents in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot.

“We’re not 100 percent sure what we’re going to do with him, but we’re looking at the Holy Bull,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “The trip wasn’t the best in the Delta Jackpot, but the bullring at times is like turf races. Sometimes, the best horses don’t always win, but the horse that won is a nice horse. I was happy that our horse ran well, and time-wise, the Holy Bull might hit him right on the head.”

The Grade 3 Holy Bull will be run Jan. 26.

My Happy Face has easy breeze

My Happy Face topped Friday’s work tab at Gulfstream Park. With trainer Rudy Rodriguez in the saddle, My Happy Face breezed five furlongs in 1:02.10 while well in hand throughout before galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.50. My Happy Face closed out her 2-year-old campaign with a game neck victory in the Grade 3 Frizette following a tough setback at the hands of the odds-on Dreaming of Julia in the Grade 1 Frizette.