A weekly series analyzing recent maiden winners poised to join the Road to the Kentucky Derby:
Sold for $1.2 million as a 2-year-old-in-training, Colonel Liam made his debut a winning one on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, though the Todd Pletcher-trained youngster needed a little help from the stewards. After carving out fractions of :23.46, :45.88, and 1:10.61 in a mile maiden special weight, the son of Liam’s Map was compromised when challenger Per Capita drifted in down the homestretch, forcing Colonel Liam to steady late in the race. It’s tough to say if Colonel Liam was the best horse on the day—Per Capita was in front at the time of the incident and ultimately won by two lengths in 1:37.91—but the stewards elected to reverse the order of finish, elevating Colonel Liam to the winner’s circle.
After finishing second in his debut at Fair Grounds behind future allowance winner Echo Town, this $425,000 yearling purchase stretched out to 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn and delivered an eye-catching victory. Favored at 4-5 for trainer Steve Asmussen, the stoutly-bred son of Carpe Diem relished the chance to tackle two turns, rallying strongly from a few lengths off the pace to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Produced by the stakes-placed Medaglia d’Oro mare Devious d’Oro, Earmer stopped the clock in 1:44.41 while giving the impression he’ll only improve over classic distances.
As a son of two-time champion and Preakness (G1) winner Lookin At Lucky, Mister Winston is bred to be at his best running long, so the fact he won his debut sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on Saturday at Gulfstream is noteworthy. Trained by Chad Brown for the partnership of Peter Brant and Robert LaPenta, Mister Winston rated just off the pace through fractions of :22.81 and :46.04, then rallied with resilience down the homestretch to edge the pacesetting favorite Ima Pharoah in a driving finish. Mister Winston’s margin of victory was just a neck, but he was full of run while stopping the clock in a respectable 1:17.63. If he’s this effective sprinting, just imagine how dangerous he’ll be running a mile or farther.