Breeders' Cup Juvenile Maiden Watch: Locked finishes fast at Saratoga

September 4th, 2023

We won’t mince words: on Friday at Saratoga, Locked posted one of the most impressive maiden victories by any horse in the past few years, in the process emerging as a formidable Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) contender.

It’s uncommon to see two-year-olds finish genuinely fast in dirt route races, but Locked did exactly that in a one-mile maiden special weight. After pressing decent fractions of :23.96 and :47.72 from second place, Locked seized a 4 1/2-length lead through six furlongs in 1:12.06, then rocketed his final two furlongs in :11.99 and :11.95 to dominate by 7 1/4 lengths in 1:36.00.

Yes, Locked ran each of his final two furlongs in less than :12 apiece. When was the last time we saw a juvenile pull that off in a dirt route? It’s hard to think of an example, because it doesn’t happen often. Even Locked’s sire Gun Runner couldn’t quite achieve the feat; when Gun Runner nabbed a one-mile maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, he finished his final two furlongs in approximately 11.58 and 12.26. For the record, Gun Runner went on to win six Grade 1 stakes and earn 2017 Horse of the Year honors.

In short, Locked is shaping up as one of the most exciting young horses in training. The 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity (G1) is likely next on the agenda for this Todd Pletcher trainee.

Locked wasn’t the only eye-catching maiden winner last week. On Saturday at Saratoga, General Partner impressed in a seven-furlong maiden special weight, leading all the way through splits of :22.74 and :45.92 to dominate by four lengths in the quick time of 1:22.33. Trainer Chad Brown often saddles talented dirt two-year-olds to break their maidens late in the Saratoga meet, with past examples including Champagne (G1) winners Jack Christopher and Complexity, so perhaps General Partner can follow the same path.

At Del Mar, Wine Me Up caught eyes in a six-furlong maiden special weight on Saturday. The stoutly bred son of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Vino Rosso showed surprising speed given his pedigree, setting fractions of :22.01 and :45.44 before staying on to win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:11.43. A race like the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita could potentially be next on the agenda for this Bob Baffert trainee.

We’ll also give a mention to Air Cav, who ran deceptively well when debuting in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Horseshoe Indianapolis last Wednesday. Trained by Brad Cox, Air Cav stayed involved with slow fractions of :23.24 and :47.18, then accelerated down the homestretch (running his fifth furlong in :11.88 and his final sixteenth in :06.26) to prevail by a neck in 1:05.32.

A son of champion sprinter Mitole, Air Cav has upside for improvement and wouldn’t be the first Cox star to emerge from Horseshoe Indianapolis. In 2022, Angel of Empire won his debut over the Indiana oval before going on to win the 2023 Arkansas Derby (G1) and Risen Star (G2), and finish third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).