05/02/2016 3:24PM

Sires of the 2016 Kentucky Derby: Awesome of Course

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Barbara D. Livingston
Fellowship will be the first horse sired by Awesome of Course to start in a Triple Crown race.

The modern-day gold standard for developing a homebred stallion is how Ken and Sarah Ramsey did it with champion and leading sire Kitten’s Joy, the sire of Kentucky Derby contender Oscar Nominated. But the Ramseys aren’t the only ones with a homebred stallion represented at this year’s Derby.

Fred and Jane Brei’s Jacks or Better Farm has already seen national success with foals by their homegrown sire Awesome of Course, led by Awesome Feather, the champion 2-year-old female of 2010 who won that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies under the Breis’ colors.

The next frontier for Awesome of Course appears to be the Kentucky Derby, with Fellowship, a Jacks or Better homebred who finished third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby as well as the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 2 Holy Bull. The colt would be the first starter in a Triple Crown race for his sire.

:: Sires of the 2016 Kentucky Derby | Download the Derby Sire Guide

The do-it-yourself approach is not uncharted territory for the Breis, who came to the 2010 Triple Crown season with Jackson Bend, a homebred son of Jacks or Better-bred stallion Hear No Evil who ran 10th in the Derby and third in the Preakness. Jackson Bend was co-owned by Robert LaPenta.

“I know what it’s like to win a big race with a total homebred, and that’s what I’ve got here,” Fred Brei said of Fellowship. “It makes a real deal of difference only from the standpoint that you know you’ve foaled the colt, you’ve watched him grow up. If he was out in the paddock and cut himself, you got concerned about that.

“[It was t]he same thing when he was broke and his original training before he went to the track. It’s a combination of anxiety when they’re growing up and delight when they make it all the way to the races, let alone to this level.”

Awesome of Course, a 16-year-old son of Awesome Again, stands at Ocala Stud in Ocala, Fla., for an advertised fee of $5,000.

Starting Awesome of Course on the racetrack and again at stud was a true from-the-ground-up endeavor, but one that has rewarded the Breis for their investment in the horse.

The ontrack résumé for Awesome of Course was solid, if lacking flash. He retired with 5 wins in 14 starts for earnings of $152,440, highlighted by wins in the Inaugural Stakes, Western Borders Stakes, and Heckofaralph Stakes, all in his native Florida. He was out of the money in his two graded stakes tries.

Still, Brei saw a spark in Awesome of Course that convinced him he had promise beyond his racing days. That was best displayed, he said, during a Saratoga allowance in the horse’s 2-year-old campaign, when he led wire to wire as the second-longest price on the board.

“I think the day he ran there, he was running against $10 million or $12 million worth of horses, and here I am with my homebred,” Brei said. “He came out of the gate and never looked back. I just remember sitting there laughing because everyone was like, ‘What’s he doing here?’ ”

Awesome of Course then ran in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special Stakes, but came out of the race with chips in both of his knees. He returned to Florida to earn his stakes victories, but Brei said the horse would have been capable of more if he had stayed healthy.

“When he came back and won the other races as a 3-year-old, at that point he was compromised – not greatly, but compromised,” Brei said. “I don’t think he achieved the race record that I thought he could have without the knees happening.

“At that point, I bred him, I’d brought him up, I’d gone through the various things that I just discussed. I knew why he didn’t have the race record. Most people don’t know that, and it doesn’t do you any good to tell them because at that point they think you’re lying to them anyhow, so you might as well say it the way it is.”

Awesome of Course was retired to stud for the 2004 breeding season, and Brei said he initially supported the horse with four to six mares per year, then increased that number to eight to 10 as the Jacks or Better broodmare band grew.

To say the stallion’s first books of mares were modest would be an understatement. He covered 10 mares in his first season and didn’t get above 15 until 2008. The season that produced Awesome Feather was another 10-mare book.

In 2011, the year following Awesome Feather’s championship campaign, the stallion covered 46 mares. The following season, his book exploded to 106. Finally, others saw the same spark Brei did that August afternoon in Saratoga.

On top of entering the Triple Crown space, Awesome of Course recently expanded his résumé into being a sire of sires with another Brei homebred, multiple Grade 3 winner Fort Loudon, who stands at Bridlewood Farm in Florida.

With a few more good trips, Fellowship might not be far behind in helping solidify Awesome of Course as the cornerstone of the Jacks or Better program, and the Breis as elite managers of their bloodlines.