A weekly series analyzing recent maiden winners poised to join the Road to the Kentucky Derby:
I’ll Fight Dempsey
A first-time starter conditioned by Todd Pletcher, I’ll Fight Dempsey was favored at 2-1 to win his debut sprinting 6 furlongs on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The son of Into Mischief flashed speed from the start with John Velazquez in the saddle, leading by a length through fractions of :22.59 and :46.11 before edging clear to score by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:10.64. Purchased for $300,000 as a yearling by St. Elias Stable, I’ll Fight Dempsey has the pedigree of a sprinter/miler, but with his obvious talent he figures to be given a chance at stretching out on the Derby trail.
Mister Candy Ride
Runner-up by a nose against the million-dollar yearling Palm Springs on Feb. 1, Mister Candy Ride came out on the winning end of a photo finish when returning to action on Saturday. Bettors established the bay colt as the 29-10 favorite in a 1-mile maiden special weight, and Mister Candy Ride initially gave them a scare when dropping back to trail the field by 14 lengths. But under a perfect ride from Corey Lanerie, Mister Candy Ride saved ground on the turn and sliced his way through the pack at the top of the stretch to rally and win by a neck in 1:37.80. A son of Candy Ride trained by Kenny McPeek, Mister Candy Ride should only continue to progress with maturity.
After finishing third in his Feb. 13 debut going a mile on turf at Gulfstream, Roman Empire switched to dirt just 15 days later and landed a powerful victory. Favored at 3-5 against a field of Florida-bred rivals, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt settled three lengths off the early pace before seizing command and powering clear to win by 8 3/4 lengths. A son of Empire Maker out of a Bernardini mare, Roman Empire was guided to victory by John Velazquez and stopped the timer in 1:37.89. Expect this stoutly-bred colt to show further improvement when stretching out around two turns.