10/14/2010 11:54AM

Juveniles seek sweeps in Florida Stallion Stakes

Jim Lisa
An In Reality win would give Gourmet Dinner a sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes series.

MIAMI – Trainers Stanley Gold and Steve Standridge will use a similar strategy in an attempt to attain the same goal, completing a sweep of their respective divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes with an undefeated 2-year-old on Saturday at Calder.

Awesome Feather, trained by Gold, will be heavily favored to win her fifth straight race in the $350,000 My Dear Girl for juvenile fillies. The Standridge-trained Gourmet Dinner seeks his fourth victory in as many starts in the $350,000 In Reality. Both races will be decided at 1 1/16 miles and highlight the rich Festival of the Sun program that also includes five other stakes, including the Grade 3 Spend A Buck Handicap, a Win and You’re In event for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Saturday marks only the second time in the 28-year history of the Stallion Stakes that two horses enter the finales with a chance to sweep their respective divisions. The only previous occasion occurred in 2003 when Sir Oscar completed his sweep of the open division with a win in the In Reality but French Village failed in her quest when off he board in the My Dear Girl.

Neither Awesome Feather nor Gourmet Dinner have started since winning the middle jewels of the Stallion Series on Aug. 28, both Gold and Standridge opted to pass potential two-turn preps on Sept. 25 to train their horses the seven weeks leading up to Saturday’s finales.

“I thought the time frame was too much, especially if we’re lucky enough to win Saturday and go on to run in the Breeders’ Cup,” said Gold, who swept the open division of the FSS in 2009 with Jackson Bend. “That would have meant running back on three weeks’ rest and then three weeks again, so I decided to train her up to the My Dear Girl and hope it works out.”

Awesome Feather shows only two recorded works in the seven weeks since her last start, both miles, the last in 1:44.41 during which she went extremely fast early and then tired late over a deep track.

“The good thing about that last work was that she went the first six furlongs in 1:14 and did it all alone,” Gold said. “Two-year-olds breezing two turns alone on an empty track, particularly a filly, is not the easiest thing to do. But she’s had some really solid miles under her since that last work as well as a five-furlong breeze in the dark. If she can’t get the distance, it will be a breeding issue, not a fitness issue.”

Gold say he will not give jockey Jeffrey Sanchez, who has been aboard Awesome Feather for all four career wins, any specific instructions prior to the race.

“I’ve got a horse with the speed to go to the front but one who will also settle in a crowd and fire when you ask her,” Gold said. “I’ll just let my rider use his instincts and I’m confident, with the right trip, she’ll get it done.”

Awesome Feather figures to receive her biggest test from Blue Eyed Sweetie, who has already won a pair of stakes around two turns including the Brave Raj on Sept. 25.

Other key contenders in the My Dear Girl include Beso Grande, runner-up in the Brave Raj, and trainer Steve Asmussen’s Tristanme who finished second early this summer in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Debutante.

Like Awesome Feather, Gourmet Dinner has never been beyond seven furlongs, and Standridge said he wanted a fresh horse to bring into the In Reality.

“He wants to lay back a little too far in his races, so hopefully by being fresh, he’ll be a little closer for this one,” said Standridge, who will replace Peter Guylas as the trainer of record for Gourmet Dinner on Saturday. “He’s been training well for the race, and I’m looking forward to another big effort from him. Watching him go in the morning and the way he runs, I don’t think distance will be a problem at all.”

The biggest problem for the late-running Gourmet Dinner could be a lack of pace in the race.

“From the rail, I think Little Drama is gone and I just hope somebody will run with him early,” said Standridge who confirmed that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is in the plans if Gourmet Dinner were to win the In Reality.

Gourmet Dinner’s regular rider Sebastian Madrid again has the call.

Little Drama, baby brother of Breeders’ Cup-bound Big Drama, earned the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any 2-year-old on the grounds this year when posting a 90 for his 9 1/2-length win in the Frank Gomez Memorial. He disappointed as the 1-2 favorite four weeks later in the Dr. Fager before rebounding with a game, against-the-bias allowance win Sept. 18.