“I hope he doesn’t say, ‘Well, I won my one race for the year. See you next year,’” said Gold, who will saddle three horses in the 1 1/16 mile event.“He looked really strong [in the Prized], but he was the same horse I brought over all summer. I have no explanation for it.”
Gold has trained a record 19 Sire Stakes winners in his 30 years training in South Florida. He turned 2-year-old filly Awesome Feather’s 2010 Sire Stakes sweep into a Breeders’ Cup victory and an Eclipse Award, and he brought Grade I winner Jackson Bend back to the races following a serious head-on collision while training in 2012.
But Twotwentyfive A, a sophomore son of Awesome of Course, has provided Gold with a different kind of challenge: unpredictability. The colt won his first two career starts, including the Affirmed division of the Sire Stakes, as a juvenile, but then he failed to hit the board in eight ensuing stakes starts on both dirt and turf. Then he broke through in the Sept. 5 Prized, out-nodding his more consistent stablemate Southern Barbecue.
“We tried him long; we tried him short; we’ve tried him with blinkers; he trains good, then he throws a clunker at you for no reason and there’s nothing wrong with him,” Gold said. “Nothing changed [in the Prized] except he decided to run.”
“I’m not going to let him fool me,” he added.“He’ll have to do it again.”
And he’ll have to again beat Southern Barbecue, a late-developing colt who has contended with stiff competition in 2015. A full brother to Jackson Bend, Southern Barbecue took four starts to break his maiden as a 2-year-old and was unplaced in his stakes debut as a freshman before being given seven months off to rest, develop, and regroup for a 3-year-old campaign. Off the layoff, he impressed with a 1 ¼-length victory in a mile allowance in May before finishing third in June’s Big Cypress Handicap behind well-regarded stakes winners Requite and Grand Bili. After holding his own when fourth in the Carry Back (G3), he finished fifth in the Sire Stakes Unbridled in August before checking in just behind his stablemate in the Prized.
“Southern Barbecue has been consistent. It’s just that he’s been running against better company,” Gold said.
The company Southern Barbecue and Twotwentyfive A will face in the 1 1/16-mile Foolish Pleasure will include mostly familiar foes, including stablemate Sing Praises, who swept two of the three Sire Stakes juvenile divisions last year. The group also includes Bwana Dance and Roll on the Navajo, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Prized; Focus On Me, who’s won two in a row since finishing fourth in the Unbridled, a race won by Yourdreamsormine, who also returns for the Foolish Pleasure, in August; and Saraguaro, an impressive maiden winner in July before most recently finishing third in an allowance on Aug. 27. Stakes-placed Jaiden’s Best and Delaware shipper Western Conqueror complete the field.
The Foolish Pleasure is one of six stakes worth $1.45 million carded for Saturday’s 12-race closing day program at Gulfstream Park. First post for the summer race meet finale is 12:45 p.m. Following Saturday’s program, South Florida racing will resume Wednesday at Gulfstream Park West.