No one could have expected that a stallion standing in Oklahoma for $1,750 after failing to attract enough patronage to stay afloat in Florida would sire a Breeders' Cup winner and champion. But that was exactly what happened when Awesome Feather charged home first in the 2010 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Not only did the Jacks or Better Farm homebred earn an Eclipse Award as champion juvenile filly with that performance, but she put a spotlight squarely on her hitherto unappreciated sire, Awesome of Course. Within a matter of weeks following Awesome Feather's victory, Awesome of Course relocated from Legend Farm near Tulsa to Brent and Crystal Fernung's Journeyman Stud, near Ocala’s Rising Hill Farm where he had been standing when Awesome Feather was conceived in 2007.
Given the tiny number of foals of racing age representing Awesome of Course—he has just 38 foals in five crops, including nine 2-year-olds of 2011—it would take a minor miracle for lightning to strike twice. Nonetheless, he is coming up with enough sparks to suggest that another bolt from the blue isn't impossible. Not only have 23 of those 38 foals won—a healthy strike rate of 61%—but on Saturday, the stallion was represented by the winners of both the colt and filly divisions of the first leg of the Florida Stallion Stakes series, suggesting a bright future for Awesome of Course in the Sunshine State.
Bred and raced by Jacks or Better Farm, Awesome of Course was bred for bigger things than he ever accomplished on the track. A son of 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Awesome Again , he is out of the stakes-winning Lyphard mare Mais Oui, making him a half brother to 2000 Genuine Risk Handicap (gr. II) winner Imperfect World (by Carson City) and to listed stakes winner Monsieur Cat (by Tabasco Cat). Produced from the Affirmed mare Affirmatively (whose dam Straight Deal was champion older mare in 1967), Mais Oui is a half sister to Adored Slew (by Seattle Slew), dam of 2010 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Dangerous Midge.
Straight Deal is a granddaughter of Big Hurry, whose branch of the famed La Troienne tribe also includes European classic winner and important sire Caerleon, 1966 champion juvenile filly Regal Gleam, multiple champion Affectionately, 1970 Horse of the Year Personality, the great French race mare Allez France, 1993 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Sea Hero, and Hall of Famer Searching. With a pedigree like that, no one would have been surprised to see Awesome of Course sporting roses in May or a purple-and-gold blanket in the fall. Instead, Awesome of Course developed chips in both knees as a juvenile, requiring surgery. While he recovered well enough to win three minor stakes, he never quite lived up to the promise he had shown early in his training and retired with a relatively modest record of five wins from 14 starts.
Florida breeders clearly saw no particular potential in Awesome of Course, who got just 10 mares in his first year at stud. Fortunately, Jacks or Better's Fred Brei has never been shy about patronizing his own homebreds as sires, and he has been well rewarded by Awesome of Course, whose four stakes winners were all bred by Jacks or Better. Besides Awesome Feather, Awesome of Course has sired Honey Honey Honey (out of Ej's Honey, by Honey Jay), 2011 Florida Stallion Dr. Fager Stakes winner Fort Loudon (out of Lottsa Talc, by Talc), and 2011 Florida Stallion Desert Vixen Stakes winner Redbud Road (out of Ladyinareddress, by Tactical Advantage). All four were the first stakes winners for their dams, though two had already contributed in other ways to Jacks or Better: multiple grade II winner Lottsa Talc is the granddam of multiple grade I-placed Jackson Bend and listed stakes winner Garter Belt, both Jacks or Better homebreds, while listed stakes winner Ladyinareddress, another Jacks or Better homebred, is a half sister to multiple listed stakes winner Hear No Evil, also a Jacks or Better homebred and sire of Jackson Bend.
So far, neither Fort Loudon nor Redbud Road have shown the kind of form that makes a repeat of Awesome Feather's accomplishments seem likely. But given that Awesome of Course sired just nine named foals of 2009, what he has already accomplished looks pretty good, especially since this crop also has yielded stakes-placed Awesome Belle (bred by—who else?—Jacks or Better). And while The Jockey Club has not yet released its report of mares bred in 2011, it seems safe to assume that Awesome of Course has probably gotten more and better mares than during any previous season of his career. If he can build on that foundation, he will have a place in the sun in the Sunshine State for years to come.