Jacks or Better Farm's homebred 3-year-old colt Fellowship, who has a pair of third-place finishes in grade II stakes this year, hopes to improve on that in the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (gr. I) April 2 at Gulfstream Park.
The Florida-bred by Awesome of Course last worked a half-mile in :47 2/5 March 11 at Gulfstream and is "right where he needs to be," according to trainer Stanley Gold. Fellowship finished third behind the undefeated Mohaymen in the Lambholm South Holy Bull and Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth, both at 1 1/16 miles.
"He's going to go in the Florida Derby for sure," Gold said. "He's training good. We've got time for another work or two if we want. I'm looking forward to the race. The extra sixteenth of a mile is going to help him."
Fellowship, a confirmed closer, has made 10 starts, seven of them at 2.
Shadwell Stable's Mohaymen and Reddam Racing's Nyquist , the undefeated champion 2-year-old male of 2015, are scheduled to meet for the first time in the Florida Derby. The presence of those two could limit the size of the field.
"No one is expecting a large field, (and a small field) doesn't ever help a horse that's coming off the pace," Gold said. "It wasn't a large field last time, either, so we'll deal with it. That's the way it is."
Meanwhile, another Jacks or Better Florida homebred, Awesome Banner, who is also by Awesome of Course, will be pointed to sprints after his eighth-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) March 12, Gold said.
"He came out of the race fine," Gold said. "Some will go long and some won't, and he has shown us twice without an excuse he can't go long, so he won't go long anymore. He came back good and went to the track (March 15) for the first time. It's like he never ran. By the three-eighths pole, he was done. I think the message is there: Forget that dream.
"We'd be foolish to run him long again. We found out what we needed to find out. He'll be a sprinter and hopefully as good as he was. I'm optimistic there."
Before Fountain of Youth and Tampa Bay Derby, Awesome Banner was an impressive winner of the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) at six furlongs and Swale Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs at Gulfstream.