Goldberg, Awesome Speed take a Preakness shot
by Ted Black
Since the outset of his career Awesome Speed has lived up to his name in many respects, and after being placed first via disqualification in the Federico Tesio Stakes, the Awesome Again colt trained by Alan Goldberg will now have the chance to display his talents on the big stage this Saturday afternoon in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes.
A winner twice in three starts this year and four times in six career outings with earnings just shy of $225,000, Awesome Speed finished a nose behind Governor Malibu in the $100,000 Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park on April 9, but was placed first when the winner was disqualified for bumping the Goldberg trainee in deep stretch. Both reached the wire simultaneously in 1:53.21 for the nine furlongs, but Awesome Speed was promoted to first, which punched his ticket to the Preakness.
The Tesio was Maryland’s last Preakness prep, and the Laurel Park event was also tabbed as a “Win and You’re In” event for the Preakness, meaning the winner would get his entry fees paid as an additional bonus for winning the six-figure stakes. In years past the Tesio had been an ideal stepping stone into the Preakness for local owners and trainers, but the “Win and You’re In” format proved ideal for Goldberg and owner Colts Neck Stables, LLC.
“It would have been a tough beat,” Goldberg said of Awesome Speed’s initial nose setback in the Tesio to Governor Malibu, who came right back on Saturday to finish second to the undefeated Unified in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. “To be honest, I was watching the TV and I didn’t see (Governor Malibu) get in, but you could see it on the head-on replay pretty clearly. I think we probably would have won, but when the horse hit him it made him change leads and he kid of lost his momentum.”
In the weeks since taking the Tesio via disqualification, Awesome Speed has trained well for a start in this Saturday’s Preakness, where he will join 10 others in an attempt to hand Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist his first career defeat. Last year’s champion two-year-old male courtesy of his win in the Breeders Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, Nyquist has won all eight of his lifetime starts and earned over $4.5 million for trainer Doug O’Neill, owner J. Paul Reddam and jockey Mario Gutierrez. That trio nearly enjoyed Triple Crown glory four years earlier with I’ll Have Another, hero of the Derby and Preakness but a late scratch from the Belmont.
“He went three-quarters in 1:13 over the training track in New Jersey, which is pretty good out here,” Goldberg said following Awesome Speed’s three-quarter-mile drill on May 10. A week later Awesome Speed breezed a half-mile in 47 1/5 seconds.
“I don’t know if he is one of the best horses, but at least he showed he’ll get two turns with this bunch and I guess with a free run in the Preakness, we should take it,” Goldberg added. “Everything’s good so far. We’ll take a shot.”
Awesome Speed finished seventh in his career debut at Parx, but he came right back to win next out against maiden special weight foes at Laurel Park and then captured the $100,000 James Lewis, III Stakes in his freshman finale at Laurel. Goldberg immediately sent the Awesome Again colt to Florida for the winter and he impressed onlookers by taking the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park on January 2 in his sophomore debut by just over a length while covering the one-turn mile distance in 1:35.97 as the 3-5 favorite.
“I knew he could stretch out to a mile and a sixteenth, but I didn’t know if he would stretch out with good horses,” Goldberg said. “Before the Mucho Macho Man, I was thinking we would pass on the Holy Bull and go for the Fountain Of Youth.”
Awesome Speed put his three-race win streak on the line in the Fountain Of Youth where he would meet his toughest challenge from several foes, but most notably Mohaymen. At the time, Mohaymen was undefeated and the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee was very high on many people’s Derby watch list. Awesome Speed was bumped at the outset of the Fountain Of Youth and settled for fourth while Mohaymen benefited from an ideal trip and then drew off in the lane to score by six lengths in 1:42.84 for the one-mile and one-sixteenth affair.
So after settling for fourth behind Mohaymen in the Fountain Of Youth, Awesome Speed returned north and began preparing for a possible start in the Preakness. One week before the Tesio, Mohaymen was also subsequently trounced by Nyquist in the Florida Derby, but went to Louisville and ran respectably in the Kentucky Derby where he finished fourth. Awesome Speed won the Tesio via the disqualification, but will head into the Preakness fresh and fit in the six weeks since that two-turn score at Laurel Park.
“It’s pretty good spacing,” Goldberg said of the six weeks between the Tesio and the Preakness. “That’s the main thing. We’ve had enough time to get him ready. We’ll see how many come from the Derby. I’m glad that we got put up. The Preakness is a good option now. He showed that he can get two turns in the Tesio and that was the main thing.”