After attempting to push Awesome Banner in to the longer distances, trainer Mark Casse’s plan to return the three-year old colt to the sprint category has paid off immediate dividends. Though he drew the post at the Carry Back this weekend, a race hosted by Gulfstream Park, there’s no doubting who the favorite will be. This is going to be an exciting one.
Awesome Banner was last seen winning the Big Cypress Stakes, a race fun over 6 1/2 furlongs, with a time of 1:16.85. It was his first outing since two haphazard appearances at the Tampa Bay Derby (8th) and the Fountain of Youth (5th). Both of those races were run at 1 1/16th miles and was just too much distance for this horse to cover. Now that he’s back to a distance he can manage, the sky seems to be the limit.
A lot of the issue with Awesome Banner was the simple fact that Casse wasn’t sure what class he was best suited for. “He had two bad races and we didn’t know why, so we wanted to take our time and figure him out,” Casse reflected. “It was strange, because we weren’t really sure what happened. They were both route races, so maybe it was the distance, but it seemed like he just didn’t show up. It’s not like he ran hard to the eighth pole and stopped. He was never in the race at any point.”
A dominant showing at the Big Cypress reaffirmed what Casse had hoped – Awesome Banner is a sprinter by nature.
Challenging at the Carry Back will be Rated R Superstar, a son of Kodiak Kowboy, who dusted a 6 1/2 furlong allowance in 1:15.89. For the most part, this Kenneth McPeak trainee has run at the 1 1/16th mile distance as well, but is now returning to the shorter sprints. He should be the second consideration in this race.
“He’s a pretty high-strung horse. Sometimes difficult to deal with,” McPeek said about Rated R Superstar. “We also felt that his stallion rights weren’t going to be all that valuable. But obviously he has talent and he’s always been a really sound horse, so that’s why we gelded him.”
Like Awesome Banner, McPeek hopes that switching down to the sprint races will have a positive outcome for the horse. “His pedigree says that he’s probably a sprinter and he’s always been a really talented horse, but he definitely really stepped up in his last race. I think he’s going to be a come-from-behind sprinter—the seven-eighths hits him right in the head. I think he could lay a little closer than he did last time, but you have to see how it unfolds.”
Dream of Me is probably the only other horse worth noticing in the Carry Back. He was last seen finishing 4th at the Florida Sire Affirmed. Li’l Meatball, Bullet Gone Astray, Jacapone and Discreet Angel round out the Carry Back field. It’s doubtful that any of them have what it takes to catch Awesome Banner.
Carry Back (Gulfstream Park – Saturday, July 2nd at 3:54pm EST)
7-furlongs, 3 year-olds, $150,000
|1||Awesome Banner (FL)||Tyler Gaffalione||123||Mark E. Casse||–|
|2||Dream of Me (FL)||Luca Panici||117||Anna Varsi||–|
|3||Li’l Meatball (FL)||Miguel Angel Vasquez||117||J. David Braddy||–|
|4||Bullet Gone Astray (FL)||Marcos Meneses||119||Henry Collazo||–|
|5||Jacopone (PA)||John Cruz||117||Robert Posada||–|
|6||Rated R Superstar (KY)||Cornelio H. Velasquez||117||Kenneth G. McPeek||–|
|7||Discreet Angel (KY)||Jesus M. Rios||123||Marcial Navarro||–|