A weekly series analyzing recent maiden winners poised to join the Road to the Kentucky Derby:

Cezanne

It took a long time for Cezanne to reach the races, but this widely-hyped youngster lived up to expectations when debuting in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on Saturday at Santa Anita. Sold for $3.65 million as a 2-year-old in training. Cezanne brought a long series of fast workouts to the equation for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, and clearly these works were sufficient to prepare the 2-5 favorite for a strong performance.

With Flavien Prat in the saddle, Cezanne showed impressive mental maturity despite his lack of racing experience, confidently racing inside and between runners down the backstretch while advancing into fast fractions of :22.19 and :44.73. Turning for home, Cezanne took command and gradually edged clear down the lane to score by 2 1/4 lengths in the quick time of 1:16.13.

A stoutly-bred son of Curlin produced by the Bernardini mare Achieving, Cezanne is bred to thrive when stretching out in distance, so the fact he comfortably won his debut sprinting is significant. The future looks bright for Cezanne, who races for the partnership of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith, and St. Elias Stable.

Life Changer

Though he didn’t receive nearly as much hype as Cezanne, Life Changer made a nice impression in his own right when battling to victory in a 6-furlong maiden special weight on Saturday at Belmont Park. A first-time starter conditioned by John Terranova, Life Changer was pressed every step of the way while setting fractions of :22.43 and :46.11, but refused to yield when challenged in the stretch by 3-4 favorite Dreams of Tomorrow. Digging deep under urging from jockey Joel Rosario, Life Changer forged on to win by a neck in 1:10.59, with the rest of the field seven lengths behind.

A son of Preakness (G1) winner Oxbow out of the Distinctive Pro mare Wicked Angel, Life Changer was bred by Robert Clements and sold for $180,000 as a yearling to Gatsas Stables. Considering Oxbow was at his best running long, stretching out in distance could be on the horizon for Life Changer.