Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Banishing, Groveland win for Godolphin

December 27th, 2022

The world-renowned Godolphin stable enjoyed a banner year in 2022. In North America alone they won 21 graded stakes, including four Breeders’ Cup events.

One major race that has long eluded Godolphin is the Kentucky Derby (G1). A dozen horses have carried the Godolphin blue silks in the Run for the Roses, but none have visited the winner’s circle.

Perhaps that will change in 2023. Godolphin picked up a pair of possible Derby contenders when their homebred colts Banishing and Groveland posted maiden victories around Christmas weekend.

The first to strike was Groveland, a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. Third in his first two starts sprinting at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, Groveland relished stretching out over one mile and 40 yards for a Saturday maiden special weight at Tampa. Overlooked at odds of 7-1, Groveland tracked slow fractions of :24.48 and :49.55 from second place, took over through six furlongs in 1:14.71, and then battled on gamely down the homestretch to beat the rallying Carcano by a neck in 1:41.67.

Groveland’s prowess running long isn’t surprising since his dam, Lucknow, is a daughter of successful sire and stamina influence Medaglia d’Oro. Groveland is bred to run long and has the potential to improve with maturity for trainer Eoin Harty, so keep an eye on this bay colt as winter progresses.

In contrast to Groveland’s hard-fought victory, Banishing was tons the best in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight on Monday at Fair Grounds. Improving dramatically off his fourth-place debut in a one-mile maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, Banishing dashed to the front through fractions of :23.64, :47.73, and 1:13.96 before powering away to win by 8 1/2 lengths in 1:44.80.

Banishing’s winning time was eye-catching. Later in the afternoon, the Gun Runner S. on the Road to the Kentucky Derby elapsed in 1:44.85. As a son of Ghostzapper out of a mare by A.P. Indy, Banishing is bred on the same cross as the long-winded and late-maturing Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Mystic Guide, so look for this Brendan Walsh trainee to improve steadily as time goes on.

We’ll wrap up this week’s Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch by steering away from Godolphin and mentioning the Michael Lund Peterson colorbearer Faustin, an $800,000 auction acquisition who impressed in a six-furlong maiden special weight on Monday at Santa Anita. Faustin rallied impressively after a slow start to win by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:10.08, a promising debut considering the son of Curlin is bred top and bottom to run long and improve with maturity.

However, Faustin is trained by Bob Baffert, who is suspended from starting horses in the 2023 Kentucky Derby. This means Baffert trainees are ineligible to earn Road to the Kentucky Derby qualification points, so Faustin will have to change barns in order to qualify to compete in the Run for the Roses.