Banner weekend for Awesome of Course
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Andrew Caufield writes of the exploits of Awesome of Course in the Feb. 2 edition of the TDN

When Awesome of Course retired to stud at the end of 2003, hardly anyone took any notice. His services were priced at only $2,500 at Jubilee Farm near Citra in Florida, the state in which he had gained four of his five successes, but even so he succeeded in attracting only 10 mares, for eight named foals. 

His connections’ belief that he could make the grade as a stallion no doubt owed a lot to his being a product of the acclaimed La Troienne family. His third dam was the champion mare Straight Deal, whose own third dam was La Troienne. Straight Deal’s record is a reminder that they don’t make ‘em like that anymore. In a 99-race career, this daughter of Hail to Reason won 21 times, including eight of her 22 starts during her championship season. Straight Deal still had time to produce three stakes winners, plus Awesome of Course’s second dam Affirmatively, who also ranks as the second dam of the GI Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Dangerous Midge. 

Awesome of Course may have had the bloodlines, but I am guessing that he lacked the size many American breeders look for. Although he was listed as 15.3 hands in the 2011 Thoroughbred Times Stallion Directory, I notice that he was later described as 15.1 hands in the Blood-Horse Register. There’s no mention of his height on the website of his new base, Ocala Stud.

Although he has mainly been based in Florida, Awesome of Course has stood at a variety of studs, including Rising Hill Farm, Legend Farm in Oklahoma and Journeyman Stud. 

For a long time he continued to struggle for support. He covered just nine mares in 2009, in his sixth year in Florida, and he was credited with having been bred to a total of only 70 mares in that time, for 47 live foals. His 2010 season in Oklahoma yielded just two live foals, though the Jockey Club states that he covered 23 mares. 

Thankfully that proved to be just a temporary blip, as it was the 2010 racing season which finally put Awesome of Course on the map, thanks to his outstanding champion 2-year-old daughter Awesome Feather.

Graduating from the Florida Stallion stakes series, Awesome Feather landed the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to take her record to a perfect six for six. Her connections immediately capitalized on the filly’s burgeoning reputation, selling her to Frank Stronach for $2.3 million at Fasig-Tipton. 

Because of a tendon injury, Awesome Feather managed only five starts for her new owner, but she won four of them, including the GI Gazelle S. over a mile and an eighth at three and the Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff S. at four. 
Stronach sold her on in 2013, when she was bought by Katsumi Yoshida for $1.9 million, carrying a filly by Medaglia d’Oro. She also now has a yearling colt by the outstanding Deep Impact. 

Needless to say, Awesome Feather’s exploits opened a new chapter in her sire’s story. Moved to Journeyman Farm for 2011, with his fee increased from $1,750 to $5,000, he covered 46 mares for 31 live foals. Then the stallion began to enjoy a remarkable run of success with his 2009 crop, even though it contained only 10 foals. Fort Loudon took the Dr Fager, Affirmed and In Reality legs of the Florida Stallion series, with Redbud Road taking the Desert Vixen and Awesome Belle the My Dear Girl.

Clearly Awesome of Course wasn’t just a one-hit wonder, and his wider success on the track translated into stronger support. At the age of 12 in 2012, he finally covered his first three-figure book, siring 63 live foals from 106 mares. Fellowship (third in Mohaymen’s GII Holy Bull S.) became the crop’s first stakes winner when he took last year’s In Reality S. Now Awesome Banner has become his sire’s fourth graded winner, thanks to his successes in the GIII Hutcheson S. and GII Swale S. 

It is going to be interesting to see how much stamina Awesome Banner possesses. He has already set a track record over 4 1/2 furlongs before easing to graded victories over six and seven furlongs. His trainer Stanley Gold is talking about two turns, which may well be within the colt’s capabilities, but how far he’ll make it along the road to the GI Kentucky Derby is open to question. 

Although his sire Awesome of Course was one of the first winners to represent the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Awesome Again, he showed none of his sire’s stamina. All three of his stakes successes were gained at around six furlongs. 

There may also be a clue or two in the records of previous winners of the Swale S., which has oscillated between Grade II and Grade III status over the years. Last year’s winner Ready For Rye proved to be a sprinter and the same could be said of a lot of other Swale winners, such as Trinniberg (GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint), Lost in the Fog (GI King’s Bishop S.), Midas Eyes (GI Forego H.), D’Wildcat (GI Frank J. De Francis Memorial), Trippi (GI Vosburgh S.) and Yes It’s True (another winner of the GI Frank J. De Francis Memorial). 

Awesome Banner is a true Florida-bred, even though his female line traces to Teresina, one of the Aga Khan foundation mares.

Awesome Banner’s third dam On Record (a half-sister to the Widener H. winner Vertee) even has a sire named Florida State and his second dam Record Stands, a granddaughter of In Reality, was inbred 4x3 to the Florida stalwart Rough’n Tumble. 

Awesome Banner’s broodmare sire Zamindar was imported to Florida from England after a health issue had forced him to miss most of the 2000 season, in his third season at stud. He spent 2001 and 2002 in Florida, without siring anything of note, but was returned to England after his Classic-winning brother Zafonic died in an accident in the summer of 2002. 

Another compelling reason for Zamindar’s return to England was the success of his first-crop daughter Zenda in the 2002 G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. Zenda proved to be the first of five Group 1-winning daughters of Zamindar, others being the Aga Khan’s top miler Darjina and his brilliant Arc winner Zarkava. 

These are potentially exciting times for Zamindar’s broodmare daughters. Zenda’s son Kingman was Cartier Horse of the Year in 2014 and then last year’s G1 Prix du Jockey-Club was won by New Bay, another out of a Zamindar mare. Zarkava’s broodmare career may also be about to take off, as her Dubawi colt Zarak looked something special when he made a winning debut at Deauville last October.

And now the lightly raced Miranda Stands has produced a Grade II winner in Awesome Banner. Although second was the best that Miranda Stands could achieve, she is a half-sister to Scrubs, a durable sprint stakes winner in Florida. She now has four winners from four runners and also has a 2014 colt by Awesome of Course. The important aspect of her pedigree is that she is a granddaughter of Gone West, who also figures as the broodmare sire of Awesome Feather, so more Gone Westline mares should be heading in Awesome of Course’s direction.

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