Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Society Man wins on class drop

March 11th, 2024

A trio of Triple Crown nominees broke their maidens last week, emerging as possible Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders eight weeks out from the first Saturday in May.

Two of the breakthrough victories came at Aqueduct. On Saturday, Society Man proved much the best in a one-mile maiden special weight. Dropping in class off an eighth-place finish in Aqueduct’s 1 1/8-mile Withers (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, the gelded son of 2018 Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic settled as many as 10 lengths behind fractions of :23.29, :46.33, and 1:11.76 over a muddy track, then launched a sweeping rally to swallow the field and win by three lengths in 1:38.03. The April 6 Wood Memorial (G2) could theoretically be next on the agenda for this Danny Gargan trainee. 

Two days earlier, Proprietary Trade made his second start a winning one in a six-furlong maiden special weight. Coming off a fifth-place finish in his Feb. 10 debut at Gulfstream Park, Proprietary Trade led all the way through fractions of :23.14 and :46.88 before rocketing his fifth furlong in :11.71 to seize a six-length lead. At that point the race was over, and Proprietary Trade eased up in the final sixteenth to prevail by 4 3/4 lengths in 1:11.05. Chad Brown trains the son of three-time Grade 1-winning sprinter/miler Practical Joke.

Down at Oaklawn Park, the third time was the charm for Native Land. Longer distances seem to help the son of Mastery, whose first two starts yielded a third-place finish racing one mile and a runner-up effort over 1 1/16 miles. When he stretched out over 1 1/8 miles for a Saturday maiden special weight, Native Land unleashed an eye-catching turn of foot to rally from 10th place and dominate by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:52.16. Native Land ran his final three furlongs in around :37.46, a solid fraction, so don’t be surprised if this Riley Mott trainee turns up in a race like the March 30 Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn.

A couple of promising horses who aren’t currently nominated to the Triple Crown also posted noteworthy maiden victories last weekend. On Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs, first-time starter More Vino prevailed in a one-mile and 40-yard maiden special weight, tracking slow fractions of :24.64, :49.06, and 1:13.79 before taking over to win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:42.14.

Conditioned by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, More Vino is a son of Vino Rosso out of a mare by Tiznow, so he’s bred to improve with maturity and thrive over classic distances. He’s probably getting started too late to pursue the Kentucky Derby, but the 1 1/2-mile Belmont (G1) could be a viable goal if his connections make him a late Triple Crown nominee.

We also have to mention Vlahos, a Luis Mendez trainee who trounced his debut in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on Saturday at Santa Anita. The son of Kantharos is bred for speed and led all the way through intense fractions of :21.47 and :43.69 to win by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:15.75. Stretching out in distance could be a question mark for Vlahos, but his talent is undeniable.