Awesome Banner came out of his final breeze before shipping to Saratoga for the Grade 1, $ 350,000 Vanderbilt Handicap this coming Saturday in good order, trainer Kenneth Decker said.
The 4-year-old son of Awesome of Course breezed a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Laurel Park’s main track on Saturday. Decker said he will likely ship up from Maryland on Friday.
“He came out of the work really good and cooled out well,” Decker said. “He looked good yesterday morning and today, so we’re on target.”
The Vanderbilt, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up, will be Awesome Banner’s first race on the NYRA circuit since finishing ninth in the Grade 1 Carter on April 8 at Aqueduct Racetrack. Since then, the Jacks or Better Farm’s bay colt rebounded to finish third in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint and second last out in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint on July 1 at Gulfstream Park.
“In the Carter, we tried an equipment change and he didn’t take to that,” Decker said. “We took the blinkers back off of him and he seemed to bounce back. He’s had two nice races and has been running against some real nice horses. He’s doing well right now.”
Awesome Banner has been ridden in the past by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Javier Castellano and Julien Leparoux among others, though Decker said he does not have a committed jockey for the Vanderbilt just yet.
“We had one but we’re kind of on the fence right now, we’ll probably make that decision on entry day,” he said.
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