Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Carbone finishes fast in debut

November 20th, 2023

The week before Thanksgiving is typically a quiet one as far as stakes racing goes. But Carbone made enough noise for five stakes horses when he smashed his debut on Sunday at Churchill Downs.

The two-year-old son of champion sprinter Mitole was tons the best while facing nine rivals in a six-furlong maiden special weight. Breaking on top from post 9, Carbone got to the lead through a modest opening quarter-mile in :22.13, stayed in front through half a mile in :45.77, and then finished fast down the lane (final two furlongs in :11.86 and :12.21) to win by eight lengths in 1:09.84.

Any way you slice it, this was a strong performance, and one indicative of a bright future. Mitole may have been a sprinter/miler, but the way Carbone finished on debut suggests he can stretch out in distance for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. It’s worth noting Carbone’s dam sire is Street Sense, winner of the 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1). Carbone will presumably tackle two turns at some point this coming winter, with the Road to the Kentucky Derby looming large if all goes well.

A couple of other recent maiden winners are worth mentioning for their possible Kentucky Derby aspirations. At Aqueduct on Friday, Stolen Magic got the job done in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight over the main track, tracking splits of :22.51 and :45.60 from second place before taking over in the final furlong to score by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:16.21.

Trained by Linda Rice, Stolen Magic knocked heads with tough competition in his first two starts running long. In a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight on turf at Saratoga, he finished second by a head against next-out Pilgrim (G2) winner Agate Road. In a one-mile maiden special weight over the Aqueduct dirt, he carved out the pace before weakening to finish third behind next-out Street Sense (G3) runner-up Moonlight.

The fact Stolen Magic cut back in distance to break his maiden suggests that, perhaps, he’ll prove best as a sprinter. But as a son of 2018 Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic (the sire of 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage) out of a mare by three-time leading North American sire Tapit, Stolen Magic is bred top and bottom to thrive running long, so it’s just as likely Stolen Magic’s maiden victory can be attributed to improvement or meeting an easier field.

Cardinale is the other maiden winner we’ll highlight. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of champion sprinter Speightstown debuted in a six-furlong maiden special weight on Saturday at Gulfstream Park and rallied from a pace-tracking position to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Cardinale’s winning time of 1:13.15 was on the slow side, but any Pletcher-trained juvenile who wins on debut at Gulfstream is worth following, and this Stonestreet Stables homebred could certainly develop into a Road to the Kentucky Derby type down the road.