Life Is Good…Wipe the Slate…and now Roman Centurian. Who would have guessed that a Nov. 22 maiden sprint at Del Mar would produce so many next-out winners?

The foals of 2018 have officially turned 3 years old, with the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1) looming as a long-term target for any colt (or filly?) with an ounce of talent. Four months remain until the first Saturday in May, and it’s very possible the eventual Derby winner hasn’t even run in a stakes race yet.

With this in mind, let’s review two of the most promising 3-year-old maiden winners from the first weekend of 2021:

Defeater

A first-time starter from the barn of Tom Amoss, Defeater didn’t get off to the sharpest start in his debut sprinting 6 furlongs at Fair Grounds on Saturday. But after settling about four lengths behind early fractions of :22.81 and :46.56, Defeater unleashed an eye-catching rally outside of rivals. Despite drifting in steadily down the stretch, Defeater finished fast to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths.

By sprinting the final quarter-mile in approximately :24 flat, Defeater reached the finish line in 1:11.06. A son of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Union Rags out of a mare by champion sprinter Orientate, Defeater races for the partnership of Nice Guys Stable, Manganaro Bloodstock, and Steve Hornstock. Only time will tell how far Defeater wants to run, but he certainly made an eye-catching impression in his debut.

Roman Centurian

After finishing fourth in his debut behind future Sham (G3) winner Life Is Good, Roman Centurian relished the chance to stretch out over 1 1/16 miles on Sunday at Santa Anita. Overlooked at odds of 7-1, the Simon Callaghan trainee was content to settle in ninth place early on before rallying smoothly around the far turn. Down the lane, Roman Centurian was moving much the best, surging clear through a :06.35 final sixteenth win by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:44.80.

A Don Alberto Corp. homebred owned in partnership with Qatar Racing, Roman Centurian is a son of Belmont winner Empire Maker out of a mare by Preakness (G1) champ Bernardini, giving the dark bay colt a pedigree geared strongly toward success over classic distances. Certainly he figures to improve with maturity, stamping Roman Centurian as an exciting horse to follow this winter.