Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Churchill winners shine
The 150th running of the Kentucky Derby (G1) is barely more than six months away, which means it’s time to resume our annual Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch series.
Every Monday, we’ll look back at the previous week’s most impressive maiden winners from around the country, hunting for possible 2024 Kentucky Derby contenders. Readers of last year’s series had Mage on their radar well in advance of his 2023 Kentucky Derby victory.
Let’s kick things off with a larger-than-usual edition highlighting seven recent maiden winners, including four who prevailed on opening day of the Churchill Downs fall meet:
The stoutly bred son of Gun Runner debuted in a one-mile maiden special weight on Wednesday at Horseshoe Indianapolis and appeared beaten in midstretch, weakening from a pace-pressing position to fall three lengths behind the leader. But Blown Cover battled back to prevail by three-quarters of a length, stopping the clock in 1:39.05. The fight he showed stamps this Brad Cox trainee as a young colt worth following.
BLOWN COVER (Gun Runner @Three_Chimneys) surges down the stretch to win on debut @HSIndyRacing for @bradcoxracing under Fernando De La Cruz!— BSW/Crow Bloodstock (@BSWCrow) October 25, 2023
Congrats to Spendthrift, Schwartz, Gandharvi, Big Easy, Kanter, Bakke, Titletown, Kueber, Golconda, Goodrich, and Parkinson. pic.twitter.com/DbqCXdbgs0
Bye Bye Liam
Fourth in his debut over five furlongs at Churchill Downs, Bye Bye Liam moved forward in a six-furlong maiden special weight over the same track on Sunday, closing from half a dozen lengths behind fast fractions of :21.05 and :44.83 to beat the pacesetter by a head. A sharply decelerating pace over a sloppy track helped Bye Bye Liam’s chances, but he’s bred to stretch out for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and may have upside for further improvement.
Fifth when debuting in a fast six-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga during the summer, Domestic Product moved forward when stretching out over 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct on Friday, tracking splits of :23.93 and :48.69 before finishing fast (fourth quarter-mile in :23.92 and final furlong in :12.74) to dominate by 4 1/2 lengths for trainer Chad Brown. The final time was a respectable 1:50.97, not bad for a two-year-old in October.
Coming off a fifth-place finish in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Churchill Downs, Lucky Jeremy improved when tackling a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on Sunday at Churchill, setting fractions of :22.76 and :46.27 over a sloppy track before staying on in the drive to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:18.23. William Morey conditions the son of Lookin At Lucky, who has pedigree potential for stretching out in distance.
Real Men Violin
After cracking the trifecta in each of his first four starts on dirt and turf, Kenny McPeek trainee Real Men Violin broke through in his fifth attempt, narrowly winning a one-mile maiden special weight on Sunday at Churchill Downs. The son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Mendelssohn rated in seventh place behind splits of :22.97, :46.33, and 1:12.12, launched a rally along the rail, and then shifted outside to take command and score by half a length in 1:38.22 over sloppy footing.
One of the most impressive maiden victories last week came from Rocketeer, a son of Curlin who debuted in an about-seven-furlong maiden special weight on Thursday at Keeneland. The Brad Cox trainee was fast enough early to press fractions of :22.94 and :46.63 and strong enough late to pull away and win by four lengths in 1:28.82.
There was no catching #5 Rocketeer winning on debut in R8 at Keeneland! You might want to keep an eye on this 2-year-old colt! 🚀— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) October 26, 2023
Another win for both @bradcoxracing and @tyler_gaff. The son of Curlin is owned by @e5racing and Ian Bren.
🎥 #TwinSpiresReplay pic.twitter.com/YY41vqyZ7e
Third and fourth in his first two starts running long on turf, Snead appreciated switching to dirt for a one-mile maiden special weight on Sunday at Churchill Downs, settling in midfield off splits of :23.46, :47.25, and 1:13.47 before rallying down the sloppy homestretch to score by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:39.90. Brendan Walsh trains the son of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist.